Tag Archives: A Black Revolutionary’s Life in Labor: Black Workers Power in Detroit

HOPE IS A GIFT WE GIVE TO OURSELVES

Dear Friends and Followers,

You may note that I am re-posting a blog from last summer. It was written as I doggedly moved ahead after my soulmate’s death, despite my pain and grieving. Today, I revisit the joy of hope because I know that each of us are responsible for creating our own inner peace and caring for ourselves. Today, I am taking a break from my book’s very successful first marketing run.  Now, it is time to step back and heal. I will be taking a health break to have some treatment, which I will follow-up by taking a vacation to spend time with my grandchildren. I am as enthused as ever about making my book, WHAT MY LEFT HAND IS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist, available to you.

You can find it here:

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist by Joann Castle is  available for order on line at Amazon.com and The Seattle Book Company. Also available in Detroit at SOURCE BooksellersPages Bookshop and Bookbeat in Oak Park. In Seattle, at Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company and Left Bank Books on Pike Street, across from Pike Place Market. Ask your local book seller to order it from Ingram.

 

RE-POST: HOPE IS A GIFT WE GIVE TO OURSELVES

As I opened my eyes this morning, I reminded myself that 2017, the worst year of my life, is over. The year that I lost my husband, my lover and my best friend has past. It is time for me to create a new life, a fulfilling life as a tribute to the love we shared.

I am embarking on the final steps in my first endeavor as an author. I began today, to type in the data that will lead my book to the printer. My book unfolded with Mike’s encouragement and support. “It is important,” he continued to remind me, “that you share your journey with others.”

But I was tired from being a care-giver for so many years. I had worked hard on the book, but the continued demand to be his health-care partner was taking a toll. “It’s just too much,” I told him. “Soon I will be sick too.”

“Don’t give up,” he admonished, “young women need your story. They need to see your passion to help them learn and grow and become all that they can be. They need to know how you conquered so many challenges that they face every day. You must finish.”

The last evening of his life, I fell exhausted in the chair across from him after a 3-hour phone conference with my production team. “I can’t.” I mumbled, “They are asking too much.”

“Relax for a bit,” was his response. “It’s going to be okay. Get some sleep and I will help you in the morning.” But morning wasn’t going to come for Mike. During the night, he went to a better place, free from pain and the ravages of heart failure.

Pushing myself to continue the work became both joyful, as I indulged in the story of our two lives together, and a curse because all I wanted to do was to grieve. Yet, timelines and what I owed the production team demanded that I work and his voice was prodding me on. What could I do but finish?

Family Train FranceI am filled with hope in this new year that has been given to me. Soon, Mike’s dream that my book will be available to others will become a reality. So, piece by piece, I doggedly finish the final tasks to upload my book to the printer.

Each step I complete is a tribute to our love and to all that Mike taught me about dignity and humanity. I have glimpsed the heart and soul of the struggle of an African-American man who was born and raised on a Mississippi sharecropper’s plantation and rose to his heights in the powerful black worker’s movement arising in Detroit during the late 60s and early 70s.

My life with Mike has changed me and my conception of the world around me. I hope in some way, there between the pages of my book, that I have conveyed the depth of my new understanding in a way that is palatable and inspiring to my readers.

Soon, my book saga will end and you will find it on local bookstore shelves or on the pages of Amazon. Please celebrate with me and share in my new beginnings. THANK YOU FOR READING.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST by Joann Castle, is now published. Do you have your copy?

IN THE FALL OF 2018, I will be available for book talks, book clubs and promotional activities. I already have some things scheduled which I will share with you when I return. In the meantime, take your people power to the polls. ” VOTE IN YOUR PRIMARIES. We can make change from the ground up.

 

LET’S TAKE A WALK AROUND MY BOOK COVER (Literally)

Last week I wrote about my book’s title, Today, I invite you to move one step deeper into my work by taking a peek at my book cover. At the moment, my book cover looks like ‘Flat Stanley’ (a character familiar to kindergartners and their parents) because the innards are not yet bound.

I’m feeling impatient as I wait for the printer. Why don’t you join me and we’ll explore my story through the photographs on the cover. You will be opening the book from the right. So, let’s begin there.

  • The first photo was taken by, my then 12 year old son, Ken Castle, when the Detroit Anti-STRESS contingent went to D.C. to protest at Richard Nixon’s second inaugural ceremony. If you look closely, you can see me in the lower right of the photo. STRESS (Stop the Robberies; Enjoy Safe Streets) was a brutal undercover police decoy unit that was entrapping and murdering young black men in Detroit. The unit’s military ‘search and destroy’ tactics were approved and conducted under the leadership of Police Commissioner John Nichols.
  • The second photo, also taken by my son Ken, shows me moderating a Control, Conflict and Change Book Club (CCC) session. The book club was conceived and founded by Mike Hamlin and me in the early 1970s. We began our organizing effort supported by the Ad-Hoc Action Group Against Police Brutality and Blackstar Bookstore, a black printing operation funded by the Black Manifesto. We benefited from Sheila Murphy’s talents and influence among both black and white radicals in Detroit and participation by the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Ultimately, the CCC Book Club became an extension of the Motor City Labor League and the Black Workers Congress.
  • The next image is a still shot from the film documentary, “Finally Got the News,” a Blackstar Production. Mike was a co-founder and the director of Blackstar. The film was originally conceived by John Watson from the League and created by California Newsreel. If you want to understand the atmosphere in Detroit after the 1967 Rebellion, take a look at this film on YouTube to give you a sense of the period: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=finally+got+the+news.
  • The 12th Street rebellion photo on the book’s spine, along with the photo of Father William Cunningham, Pastor, Church Of The Black Madonna, are from the Detroit News Collection, courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

    Back Cover

  • Father Cunningham mentored me into the Civil Rights Movement in 1965, at the intersection of the brutal police actions at Selma, Alabama and the murder of Viola Liuzzo, a white woman from Detroit. An informant for the FBI, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, confessed to the murder but no one was ever prosecuted.
  • The photo of the cops on 12th Street is from the Detroit Free Press and is in the public domain.
  • The photo of the Castle-Hamlin children on the lawn of the Boston House is from my private collection. It had to be photo-shopped to get all my children in a small frame to fit on the book cover.
  • The photo of Frank Ditto and the crowd at the Hourglass demonstration was also taken by Ken Castle. Hourglass was an organization launched out of our home just a few months after the 1967 Detroit Rebellion. The purpose of the organization was two-fold: “to support [pressure] the Catholic Church to contribute funds to programs fostering black self-determination and to destroy racist attitudes in the white community.”

Thank you for taking this walk with me. I am working hard to get this book in your hands. Book publishing is a very complicated business.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: LESSONS FROM A GRASSROOTS ACTIVIST

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

Please click “follow” at the top right of this document and keep up-to-date on my publication time-line. You won’t want to miss this.

If you missed any of my weekly blogs, you can catch up by scrolling down this page.

PEOPLE ASK ME WHY I WRITE IN MY GENRE

#Sylvia Hubbard always asks her new Motown Writers, “What is your genre?” As a novice writer, when I first heard her say that, I didn’t know what she meant. But I soon learned that books are divided into categories called genres. You may notice this when you visit your library or your favorite book store. My genre is called “historical narrative.” This simply means that I write about history in a story form.

“You tell good stories,” a friend commented. “Why don’t you write fiction?” Because I’m an activist and I can’t stop feeling that every moment of my life should matter in the quest for a better world. I write in my genre because I want my work to contribute in some small way to inspiring others to think about the world in new ways.

I am also an anthropologist, trained to see that we are all products of our cultural outlooks, our belief systems, our social structures, our rulers, the trappings of our times and our access to resources. I see the world in broad strokes encompassing many cultures, societies and nations. This is where I draw my outlook on life. This is work I love.

This is the perspective I use in my new book: WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist, (a Detroit Memoir). We all start our lives viewing ourselves through a certain lens, usually stemming from our family and our childhood experiences. Yet as we grow and learn, we begin to expand our vision and open our view to understanding the experiences of others. We are fortunate today, to be living in a time that is forcing us to come to grips with reality of life in the United States, the challenges to our democracy and our relations with the outside world.

We must not allow ourselves to become isolated at a time when we need community more than ever before. I hope you will find pivotal intergenerational lessons learned in my story that can be applied to the new historical struggle emerging from our young and spirited upcoming social activists. Listen to their narrative. They hold our future in their hands.

Coming soon: What My Left Hand Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist. Then start your own discussions.

Click “follow” at the top of this page for updates on publication.

WHAT HAPPENED TO COLLABORATION AND COALITION BUILDING?

Control, Conflict and Change Book Club Discussion. Photo by Ken Castle, 1971. Copyright 2017.

I’m an activist, I can’t stop. I’ve been pursuing social justice issues for fifty years. I’ve been an organizer as well as a foot soldier in many stages of the social justice movement and feeling good about my skills. But over the last few years as I’ve begun to write about my experiences, I’ve faced a new problem in my life, a wall of anguish about my ability to master the challenges of social media, when all I want to do is communicate with my readers.

I  can see the good in social media. Activists all over the country have harnessed its power to spontaneously express outrage and get people on the streets to protest our social ills. It has changed our social conversation and has clearly brought issues of race and white supremacy in our country into timely focus for broader discussion. But where is that discussion occurring?

There is a quote from Alan Kay that resonates with me, “The best way to protect the future is to invent it. 

If we want social change, we need to create the educational opportunities, the collaboration and coalition building necessary for a better tomorrow.

Here are my problems with social media as a foundation:

  1. Social media encourages isolation.
  2. Social media has reduced our social interactions to like, comment, share, tweets and retweets or simply post a photo. Living life in the social media fast-lane robs us of the poetry and warmth of human communication. To solve our social issues, we need to talk.
  3. Social media can speak falsehood or truth. Our right to know the truth is one of our most precious democratic values.
  4. My friends and cohorts text often. Yes, we accomplish a lot of work but I regret the loss of the sound of their voices.
  5. The depth of post-9/11 surveillance may never be totally known to us but anyone who uses a credit card, a smart phone or signs-on to social media is already under surveillance.

It’s time to get together and talk.

Check out my new book: What My Left Hand Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist and start your own discussions.

Click “follow” at the top of this page for updates on publication.

GRIEVING AND LEGACIES

I’m grieving right now. At the moment my pain is who I am. For forty-five years, Mike Hamlin was my confidant, my lover, my husband, and my best friend. In that sense, I have nothing to complain about. I was so fortunate to be loved by Mike who was both a committed black labor activist and a devoted family man. Mike gave me everything in life that mattered. As a mutual friend told me recently, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

I am desperately working to finish my book which is a tribute to Mike, our love for each other and for those who give their hearts to the struggle for social justice. My story takes place in Detroit during the tumultuous years of the 60s and 70s, but it is more–in that I seek parallels in our current period and offer lessons learned on how to avoid mistakes we made in the past.

Mike was a big supporter of my decision to use the written word as a medium for reflecting on our history. He was also my first-line proofreader, which led to many hours of mutual reflection on the period and what it means today. Our long discussions revealed many facets of the intense aspects of being in a movement. I learned, and he learned many details of our experiences during this period that in our busy lives, we had never discussed before.

Now you can read about it in my UPCOMING BOOK:

What My Left Hand Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist

       by Joann Castle

Includes an Activist’s Survival Guide.

COMING IN FALL 2017: “Follow” my blog to get the latest details.

VIOLA LIUZZO LOVED HER CHILDREN ENOUGH TO FIGHT FOR A BETTER WORLD

On Sunday, April 12th, Mike and I had the honor and the privilege of meeting the children of civil rights martyr, Viola Liuzzo. Viola’s tragic death in Selma, Alabama in 1965 was the event that brought me into the civil rights movement.  In many ways, Viola was like me, a local white woman raised Catholic, with five small children. She was an empathic woman with a big heart and when the call went out to support those brutally assaulted as they marched for voting rights, Viola headed to Alabama

On March 25th, as Viola was shuttling marchers back to Selma, she was murdered on the highway by members of the Ku Klux Klan. In the car, was an FBI informant who later bragged about the killing. The FBI went on to smear Viola’s name and attempt to destroy her family.  Somehow, I felt a kinship with Viola and I understood why she was compelled to go to Selma. In a sense, that week in 1965, I stepped into the movement to take her place.

Mike Viola Liuzzo's children

Mike with Viola Liuzzo’s children.

This month, in Detroit, Viola’s family was given a hero’s welcome on the 50th anniversary of her death. She was posthumously awarded a degree at Wayne State University where she was a student. Among the many events in her honor, was a Morris Dees lecture at Wayne State Law School, a tribute at Macomb Community College, and a celebration of her life at the Unitarian Church on Wayne State’s Campus. A park near her home in Northwest Detroit was re-dedicated in her honor.

Mike and I are grateful for the opportunity to converse with four of her children. It has been a difficult road for them as they struggled to vindicate their mother’s image from slander by the FBI. “She prepared us,” their daughter Mary told us. “It was the way she raised us.” “Thank you, Mom. You loved us enough to fight for a better world.”

Please click  ‘follow’ on this website and join Mike and I on our journey.

Personal Histories in the Struggle for Justice.

A MOTHER’S BATTLE AGAINST INJUSTICE

Against the Tide Books is dedicated to publication of historical narratives that others can learn from. That is the goal of my new book. The work is directed at young mothers of social conscience, seeking to give them confidence and change the way they think about their role in the broader world that their children will inherit.

In the spring of 1967, I moved my family from the suburbs into the city to expose my children to a real world environment and teach them about social responsibility. We arrived just a few weeks before the 1967 civil disturbance and we became deeply involved in the movement for black self-determination that followed.

By 1969, I was working with Michael Hamlin, a leader in the movement for black workers power. Mike and I developed an idea for a book club that would bring blacksJoann CCC and whites together in a multiracial educational forum geared to developing the support of whites for the black struggle. Three hundred and fifty people showed up for the first meeting.

My oldest son, Ken, recently came up with this photo of the Control, Conflict and Change book club, April 1971, at Central Methodist Church in Downtown Detroit.

My new book is finished. Watch for my story of these turbulent and rewarding years.   Between Two Worlds: A Mother’s Battle Against Injustice by Joann Castle. Follow my journey as I work to get the book published.

Click ‘follow’ on this website and join us on our journey.