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Listen to Claudette Colvin - nhpeacenik
Listen to Claudette Colvin
Cover Photo of  "Claudette Colvin - Twice Toward Justice" by Phillip Hoose

On Saturday night, Denise and I joined a large (for New Hampshire) crowd at the American Friends Service Committe's New Hampshire Celebration of Youth Activism. It was an inspiring event and, with the help of Steve Diamond of WSCA., I obtained recordings of all the speakers. The theme of the gathering was that young activists can and do make a difference, and to prove the point, the Committee invited Claudette Colvin, a 70-year-old woman who, as a teenaged high school student changed the world by taking a courageous spontaneous action to end Jim Crow segregation on the bus system of Montgomery, Alabama. You may say, "...but that was Rosa Parks, not some kid named Claudette Colvin. I've never heard of her before."

Rosa Parks' action in refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white person was anything but spontaneous. Parks was a practical activist who planned her action months in advance in collaboration with lots of other committed adults. Claudette, on the other hand, was a black high-school student who had been studying history and understood first-hand the twin weights of Jim Crow segregation and patriarchy that black girls faced every day in the US South in the 1950s. Hers was a split-second decision to defy the establishment alone. She said she felt the weight of Sojourner Truth pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman pushing down on the other, keeping her in that seat when a young white woman approached to take it.

Along with Colvin, Phillip Hoose, author of a powerful biography of Colvin, had been  invited to introduce her and give some of the background. I recommend listening to both these talks. I have posted them at  communications.uml.edu/connections/ , where you can listen to and/or download all the audio from the conference.

In this blog, I also want to talk about my subconscious reaction to the talk. I dreamed that Colvin had attended the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where I work, and that I had been asked to drive her to the airport. In the dream, I was driving her in a large black car which she had once owned. and while we rode together, she carried on an amazing conversation (which I have forgotten unfortunately) that left me with the impression that she was one of the great artists, thinkers and poets of our time, even though only a few friends knew her and shared discourse with her. I think my right brain was trying to tell me that this encounter was important - that it must not be forgotten. My impression in the dream was that she had gone on to be a scholar

Reading from Hoose's book the following day, I learned that she had worked as a nurse's aide in New York City until she retired. The reason her name did not become prominent in history books was seemingly that, shortly after her civil disobedience, she became pregnant by a light-skinned black man who did not marry her. The pregnancy and the light-skinned baby made her a kind of "kryptonite" to the civil rights movement leaders, who were exceedingly concerned with appearing unimpeachably pure. She did later sign on, at the urging of those same leaders, as a plaintiff in the court case that ultimately led to desegregation of all bus systems in the  US.

A related post is at www.the-savvy-sista.com/2009/02/before-rosa-parks-there-was-claudette.html
PS, I can also highly recommend Hoose's thoughtful, funny book for young people on the subject of violence and oppression Hey Little Ant

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pingback_bot From: pingback_bot Date: November 12th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)

AFSC - NH Celebration of Youth Activism

User nhpeacenik referenced to your post from AFSC - NH Celebration of Youth Activism saying: [...] and presentations, go to communications.uml.edu/connections/ . For my blog on the subject, see nhpeacenik.livejournal.com/33799.html . Here is what Arnie Alpert of the American Friends Service Committee's Concord (NH) office had to say: ... [...]
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