Page 5


Muslims, Nationalists Are Working There existed that a barbecued chicken was in Hill’s possession, there was no public reference to such evidence. Rainbolt remembers that after he had run out of his lounge, “In a few minutes the people had surrounded the car, and then about five carloads of cops arrived.” Within minutes after Hill was shot there was a picket line at the storea line organized by Hill’s neighbors in the community, many of them acting together for the first time. After Hill died in a hospital the protest intensified until, on Saturday, Feb. 26, hundreds of Negroes were milling through the shopping plaza. The Rev. John Stevens, an Episcopal priest whose ministry is to the poor in the streets, said that it was the weather which prevented massive rioting from beginning just three blocks from his church. “The alternative of violence is very close,” he said. “If it hadn’t rained that Saturday, that would have been it.” With the neighborhood aroused, two very different kinds of Negro organizations made their presence felt. Stevens has been advised that Black’ Muslims and Black Nationalists were on hand that Saturday. One of Stevens’ field workers told the Observer, “The Muslims were there telling them, ‘The white man is a devil. Don’t you know he can walk into your house and rape your wife and throw you in jail for not liking it?’ ” Also on hand were representatives of the NAACP. “I’m fed up with the NAACP,” said Stevens. “They tried to kill the school protest, and they like to take over any protest they can find about this time of year, because it’s time for their fund-raising drive.” The Negroes in Hill’s neighborhood, who were not drawn into the NAACP, succeeded in their protest. Donald Mixon, the man who owned the market, closed it, and then he sold it. The anger remains, and Hill’s death has brought a kind of unity to the Negroes along Rosedale. Theirleader is Joe Rainbolt, who said he had never thought of organizing until Hill was shot. “I don’t believe in movements. I don’t believe in nonviolent marches,” he said. “Somebody hits me, and I’ll hit them back.” Although he is shy and slow to speak up as he leads his embryonic neighborhood group, Rainbolt is an articulate advocate of police reform. “One of the things they could do is have a ‘buddy-buddy’ system, with two men in a car. In order to give fair police coverage, we should help the police department by upgrading salaries, and then that would help getting better policemen. If the qualifications were higher, qualifying for the force would be a little tougher. With the present administration, the Negro doesn’t get his mandate recognized by the police department. “All the fault does not lie with the city, but I’d say that 85% of it does.” AS RAINBOLT’S GROUP began to organize, the NAACP, with a 40-man delegation led by the Rev. D. Leon Everett, II, a Negro Baptist minister, took their grievance to Mayor Welch and the police. Everett asked an end to police brutality and to derogatory remarks directed against Negroes by policemen, for upgrading of Negro policemen, for the “buddy system” under which one white policeman and one Negro would patrol the streets in the same car, a court of inquiry for `every allegation of police brutality, and psychological training to improve the attitudes of white policemen toward Negroes. This is also what Rainbolt wants but Everett was admitted to the chambers of the mighty. At the meeting, police chief H. B. Short is said to have cleared up specific claims of police brutality made by the Negroes as rumors, and he cited 43 cases in which officers were disciplined for mishandling Negro cases. The police chief said that his men are adequately trained in how to deal with Negroes, that the white-Negro buddy system would be of little use, and that the police department investigates police brutality complaints itself. Welch, admitting that the police had “failed miserably” in communicating with the Negroes, promised to look for a solution, but declined to set up a civilian review board, just as he has in the past declined to create a city human relations council. No tangible change resulted from the meeting. Now, in May, Rainbolt, a man who discounts the usefulness of confrontations with the structure, is prepared to act again. The man who bought Mixon’s market and reopened it had sought the counsel of Negro leaders, such as Rainbolt, before going ahead. The new owner agreed to hire Negroes, and even offered an errand boy job to the young son of the late Lucky Hill; the boy turned it down. Last month, though, a Negro butcher at the, store was replaced with a white butcher, and when the Observer last saw Rainbolt, he was trying to decide whether this, too, was grounds for protest. He was confident. “I may just close them up again,” he said. Rainbolt said that he believes in political action, and it is such action which many Fr. Stevens and Mrs. Perry includedfeel may prove to the Negroes of the Houston ghettoes that progress is possible, with Miss Jordan’s victory as a turning point. RAINBOLT and so me other Houston Negroes are being advised in their work by Oliver O’Conner, 36, a Negro who has been a salesman, boxer, writer, actor, and ship deckhand. During his travels as a youth he was converted to Islam in Egypt by a man he calls “the beautifullest cat I ever saw.” “I’m black and I’m a Moslem, but I’m not a Black. Muslim,” explained O’Conner, who said he believes in the usefulness of political action. He is paid by a religious denomination to seek out Negro trouble spots and to help the Negroes organize to fight these problems on a highly localized basis. As O’Conner makes his rounds through the ghettoes, he encounters what he calls “the living dead.” Pointing at a block of dilapidated rent housing, he said, “It’s a graveyard here. The people in it have no future, a forgettable past, and a lousy, stinking present.” Driving past the Houston Post Building, O’Conner saw a teen-age Negro girl passing the newspaper and its giant motto, “Let facts be submitted to a candid world.” “This neighborhood is the prostitute’s breeding ground,” he told the Observer. “That girl’il be a pro in a few months. This is really a graveyard.” White and Negro apathy are not O’Conner’s only enemies. There are the Black Muslims, who advocate the violence which O’Conner rebukes, and whose headquarters is a green-and-white Tudor-style building at the corner of Sampson and Polk. The building, which used to be the office of a lumberyard, and the open space behind it is used, O’Conner said, for training in handto-hand combat and in fighting police dogs. O’Conner also knows of the presence of Black Nationalists, who sent a five-man recruiting team to Houston three months ago and whose strength there he now estimates at 250 to 300. “You can’t get the Justice Department to believe that,” he said, noting that his lines of communication to the Nationalists have been cut in recent days. “They’ve just gone underground.” O’Conner knows that some of the people he tries to help live outside the law. He tells of a man who pushes dope who told him, “I make $50 a day on the corner, so why should I work?” O’Conner continued, “I told him, ‘You pay $35 a day to stay out there,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t really work.’ ” One day as O’Conner worked the streets, a Negro and a Latin in a white car pulled up and asked him to join them for conversation. He knew whom they represented, so he went quietly with them to the home of the men’s employer, a white man who told him to stop his activities with the Negro pushers or, “You’re not going to be able to walk or drive, either one.” O’Conner said he convinced the man that he had no links with the police, and he has remained unmolested since. O’Conner’s technique of organization is simple.. “All I try to do is try to make a cat angry enough to change his way of living.” His dissatisfaction with the Houston situation extends to the NAACP \(“The the War on Poverty, which, to his people, is the Houston-Harris County Economic Opportunity Organization. One recent week, O’Conner arranged for the Rev. Charles Kelley, director of HHCEOO, ‘to talk with Joe Rainbolt and his friends in a night meeting at the B&J. Kelley came, and he stayed until 1 a.m. O’Conner remained off the scene, but he chastised Rainbolt and his associates for failing to give Kelley a stiff enough questioning. “You should have told him, ‘I say you’re giving money to money.’ You’ve got to keep tight on them. You’ve got to push. May 13, 1966 3