Dr. King Eyes Texas Treasure Island, Fla. “We do not want to make the same mistake as the labor movement, which is caught on a reef of mash potatoes and gravy,” C. T. Vivian, top aide to Martin Luther King, told the 1965 Unitarian-Universalist churches’ conference at Blueridge, North Carolina. His charge was that the labor movement has lost its dynamism because it has “grown away from the people” and become sidetracked with organizational problems and economic security. Rev. Vivian said that the next geographical target for Rev. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference is Texas, with the Latin-American population as much within S.C.L.C.’s sights as the Negroes. He said that in addition to S.C.L.C.’s participation in the recent demonstrations in Huntsville, T e x a s [” ‘Hey-You’ in Huntsville,” Obs. Aug. 6], S.C.L.C. has directed some civil rights activity in Ft. Worth, has had requests for assistance from Houston, and will be working elsewhere in East\\ Texas as situations arise. S.C.L.C. has no definite connections with any Latin-American group as yet; they will be seeking relationships with organized labor, Vivian said. The conference was as sympathetic an audience as Vivian might find anywhere in the white South, an encampment of religious liberals, many of them also inclined toward political and social liberalism. The hall for six to eight hundred people was filled, and some stood outside the windows in the cool mountain night. Vivian rejected the material goals of middle class society. “Although the Negro is suffering from the disease of need-more, I’m not concerned with being equal with a society that drops bombs on Viet Nam, that must feel superior to another man,” he said. He made a plea for a movement more universal than civil rights: a human rights movement. “We can no longer move on the basis of our negroidness. The problem really is that a goodly section of America is deprived of a . decent education and not fitted to an automated age.” Before his speech he sat with a small group of us and read the script of a program of American Negro poetry.’ In his speech he quoted inexhaustibly from memory the poems of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Waren Cuney, Le Roi Jones. I was struck by the truth of Dunbar’s fifty-year old poem, “We Wear the Mask,” for the Negro of the recent past, and the shock it must be for whites to see the mask removed: the Negro revealing his real desire for all he had pretended not to care about. Vivian explained that until the march from Selma, Negroes had been putting on their moral armor; now the political fortifications are being built. “We had to move where people would move,” in accommodations and eating establishments, where daily Negroes received direct blows to their dignity. The more basic issues of jobs, votes, and school are the focus of the struggle now. Vivian gave special emphasis to the crisis of Negro. unemployment. He claimed that 18% of Negro employables are without jobs as against the national unemployment of between 5 and 6%. “For the Negro the depression never ended. Thirty billion dollars is robbed from Negroes and Puerto Ricans every year,” he accused. “Aaron Henry in Mississippi tells about the white man, disturbed by Negro agitation, who asked a Negro: ‘What do you want anyway?’ The Negro answered, What’ve ya got?’ ” He was explicit: “This is a radical movementthe non-violent movement, make no mistake about it. It is not simply refraining from hitting back, but is involved in making certain positive moves. Our weapons are more radical than violence.” The goals of the movement, he said, ‘are a society less materialistic, more humane, educated, and concerned; and the great threat to that kind of society is the “conscienceless gentility” without moral fiber for the struggle for civil rights, who consign the minorities to the breadline. However, the latent liberal is the hope for tomorrow, Vivian believes. “I’ll not be satisfied until I see even the poor whites moving with us. All along they have been manipulated by the same power structure.” He said white liberals are needed in the movement now to help arouse other whites in the South and Southwest. “It takes guts to confront other whites,” he said. “The only end we really seek is not integration, but a community of love where men can dwell together in true peace,” Vivian said. “We have come to understand that without suffering, we will not gain justice, but that out of redemptive suffering can come a new society.” NAN HUNT The writer, a Texan, is free-lancing and writing poetry now in St. Petersburg, Fla. 16 The Texas Observer Diane Ravitch’s Error Judging by the number of people who expressed themselves to me about Diane Ravitch’s description of Houston’s Jewish community [Obs. Aug. 20], I had expected to see several replies in your next issue, because not one single person agreed with her. In trying to analyze Mrs. Ravitch’s negative impressions, I have concluded that it was the shock of contrast. After living in New York, almost any person finds a return to a smaller city a difficult experience. Culture is so concentrated in Manhattan that other plaCes pale by comparison. In addition, since those who would make their living at culture find the greatest market for their talents in New York, there is a migration from all smaller communities. And for those of Jewish faith, the contrast seems even greater because of the concentration of Jewish people in New York there they constitute about twenty percent of the population, in Houston less than two percent. I think I know Houston’s Jewish community fairly well, after 30 years. I do not think its cultural character needs any apology. A mere glance at the boards of directors, membership lists, or subscription lists of musical, theatrical, and artistic organizations, a mere glance at the faculties of our universities, or the customers of our boOk stores, or the cultural program of our Jewish Community Center and synagogues would be enough to correct the exaggerations in Mrs. Ravitch’s report. It is a shame that when she visited Houston, she got in with the wrong crowd. -Rabbi Robert I. Kahn, Temple Emanu El, 1500 Sunset Blvd., Houston, Tex. Undistorted Baldwin Commendations for printing the letter of Jim Presley on “The Fire Next Time” [Obs. Sept. 3] to give us who had read James Baldwin’s book a renewed, undistorted, realistic appraisal of it. . . . Your phrase, “messing with the Black Muslims,” was prejudicial. . . . Sidney Craft, 4418 Buena Vista, Dallas 5, Tex.
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.