Tag Archives: #Black Lives Matter

ME, MAXINE AND 4,500 WOMEN CREATE A FOUNDATION FOR ACTION

Reclaiming our Time was the theme of the three-day Women’s March Convention held last weekend at the Cobo Center in Detroit. The agenda was a call to action launched nine months after the post-inauguration D.C. March that drew millions of women across the world into the streets to protest Donald Trump’s election. (You can place your own significance on the nine-month time frame.) The Women’s Convention was organized by Tamika Mallory, Carman Perez and Linda Sarsour, who also organized the D.C. March. Well done, my friends. It was totally inspiring.

Detroit’s expanded and updated Cobo Center proved an excellent venue. Its main hall easily accommodated the 4,500 women attending, with ample room to house the 176 action-oriented workshops included in the program. The nearness of Cobo to the Detroit River and the realization that Canada was so close was a pleasant surprise to many of the women who came from out of town. I was also pretty happy that I could walk from my home to the convention and grateful that they gave me a scholarship so that I could attend. One third of the women attending did so through scholarships.

The convention’s overarching theme was the creation and fostering of an intersectional feminist movement led by people of color, which encompasses issues of race, class, gender, immigration status and disabilities, acknowledging that we are all going to rise together or fall together. We live in a society that deliberately segregates us and pits us against each other. If we do not organize across these sectors, we risk becoming oppressors of others who are also fighting for liberation.

My personal hero, Maxine Waters, the outspoken 79-year-old, Congresswoman from California, was the keynote speaker and minced no words in calling out the role of men in positions of power who abuse women through sexual harassment and assault but also through the general degradation of women, especially women of color, in the workplace, on the street and many times in their homes. While there were chants to “Impeach 45,” Donald Trump’s name was seldom used. We were all about building and not tearing down.

Congresswoman Waters was joined by Senators Kristen Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Debbie Stabenow. Senator Gillibrand reminded the crowd not to depend on congressional leadership in Washington: “The only time our democracy ever works is when regular people just like you, stand up and demand it.” Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List shared that since the presidential election, 20,000 women have contacted Emily’s List to express interest in running for political office. They have trained 1,900 women and have short term goals of taking back the House and the Senate. It was gratifying to see many rural women attending the conference and sharing common cause.

One of the most popular workshops at the conference was, “Confronting White Womanhood.” The session focused on helping white women understand how white privilege functions as a barrier to resolving race relations. The response to the workshop was so overwhelming that it was repeated and required a room that seated 500 people to accommodate all the white women who wanted this training. One of the co-creators of the workshop noted: “We live in a world where some people have power and some people don’t…white supremacy is the problem that white people need to fix.”

(My report on the conference will continue in next week’s blog. Stay tuned.)

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

By Joann Castle   Coming soon…

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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…

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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.