It was 1968 when my boyfriend and I moved from San Diego, CA. to Houston, Texas.  The Vietnam war was at ti's deadliest, Dr. King had just been assassinated, Bobby Kennedy murdered, gone...there was a presidential election looming.   Segregationist George Wallace was a leading candidate.  There were riots and protests everywhere....for a black man, or a hippie, Houston was not the most welcoming place...but we, my boyfriend and me, were young, dumb, and sort of brave white kids on a mission to make a difference.  
There were flyers up all over the city of a generic hippie couple with the words Wanted Dead or Alive...I watched the Democratic convention in Chicago on TV and felt fear and disbelief...they were beating people who looked just like me.
....Black men were being shot at an alarming rate by the Houston Police and by the Texas Rangers...these men were accused of trying to run, but there would be powder burns on their backs.....there was a lot of fear that because of what happened to Dr. King there would be riots like the one in Watts in 1965. City leaders were trying to keep a lid on things...the city sort of vibrated with tension. And so many sirens all the time...
I got a job as a cocktail waitress a few nights a week......I only had to be 18 to work at a club. I didn't serve alcohol, everyone brought their own and I would bring them ''set ups''. 
The job was mostly easy and my days were free. I decided I wanted to help register black voters and I was able to find a connection to make it possible. I had a meeting with a minister from a black church...he interviewed me and made a point of letting me know that he couldn't promise that everything would be ok...that I would be ok...My duties would be help people fill out the forms correctly. I took the ''job'' and three mornings a week my boyfriend would drive me to Ward 4 or 6, I don't remember which now. We would arrive in our tiny car which was painted with big red, blue, yellow and pink flowers, and looked like a dozen clowns should pile out when the doors conspicuous we were....and he'd leave me there...It was a sort of secret place, the little house...the summer too hot with emotion, too dangerous to put out a sign saying REGISTER HERE!!! .....There were no lines...people would sort slip in and out all small groups or alone.... and we'd do the paper work.... tension was high...we registered a lot of first time voters of all ages in those few weeks.
That summer I also volunteered for Operation Bread Basket. I volunteered to spend time with a child from one of the Wards a few times a week.....My child, and little friend was Oshee...she was four years old and black as the night. She lived with her mother and 5 brothers and sisters in 3 rooms...she had never played in a bubble bath or eaten an egg. She'd never swam in a swimming pool either and when I let her swim at our apartment complex the other renters called black kids allowed.....I was more than a little stunned....our neighbors seemed like nice people. I wondered then, and still do, what they feared from a 4 year old?
One sunny afternoon Oshee and I decided to walk to the store about 3 blocks away. I'd walked it many time, but this time it was different. In a matter of minutes white men in pickup trucks where calling me a nigger lover...whore, slut...screaming these words at us as they drove by...let me tell you, this hippie girl started shaking in her sandals.....I don't think Oshee had any clue what the words meant that were being hurled at us but she felt my fear, and she could feel their hate......and she held my hand a little tighter, and we both walked a little faster...I didn't know rather to turn around and go back, or be brave and move forward. We went forward, I had promised her a coloring book and crayons.....but I was afraid...really afraid....We never took a walk together again...sigh...I had never felt such intense hatred projected onto me......but I imagine she had.
I often wonder if my time with her was good or not, what impact it had, if any......I wonder with racism still alive and well in this country if she was able to leave that Ward and never look back...I wonder if she has a good life...I wonder if she votes.
I heard a blip on youtube from some Fox commentators the other day. They were talking, and laughing, about the 102 year old woman who had to stand in line for hours to vote in our last national election. They joked...and they wondered out loud what the big deal was?...they asked what else a 102 year old woman had to do besides wait? And I wondered when voter suppression will end in this land of the free and equal....
I wonder.....didn't we already fight this battle?


Healing Woman said...

Julie, I love the way you are right! Keep up the wonderful thought provoking posts. I was not a hippie then but somewhat of one now. I drive my little mosaiced car around and people always give me the peace sign. They have definitely categorized me as a crazy artist or just plain crazy.'s a prejudice of a kind.

Unknown said...

Awesome post! It is time for small minds to awaken in this country, that is for sure!

AkasaWolfSong said...

You know many as have become awakened in our land, there are more who aren't, and unfortunately it is those unawakened ones who seem to rule the flavor of the day, so to speak.

I'd like to be able to say I live in a free land but it is far from free when I see our government reps keeping folks from voting based on race or gender, or keeping women from being equally protected under the law of the land, but sadly we are not. We are far from free yet. We've a lot of work to do still and until I stop breathing, I will continue to push for equality for all.

Those who seek to rule and repress others will someday rue their actions...karma is a 'bitch' or so they say!

As for Oshee...I'm sure your energetic soulprint is forever embedded with hers...she may not remember it but her oversoul does, Dear One!

Thank you for sharing this important story with us...keep the faith Sister!

julie said...

Cheryl....on one hand the crazy artist label can work for us a little wiggle room to say what we know? Thank you for coming here and sharing your words.

Denise...It is surprising how few enlightened souls we would need in places of respect to have it all truly begin to turn around...thank you for your thoughts..

Akasa...As I look around the world...when I let myself see and feel what so many live...the fear..lack...I have a hard time keeping the faith. No question what we need is more love...less fear...I don't believe it's possible for the two to exist in the same space.

love, love..xo

Snowbrush said...

FOS symbolizes all that is wrong about America.

Julie, in 1968, I was a 19-year-old and living in south Mississippi. King and Kennedy both died that year, and both deaths were an occasion for jubilant celebration by much of the white population. You could have been killed, of course. Maybe I know that better than most of your readers, and maybe I knew it better than you at the time. I suspect that being in a city might have saved you, because everyone in a rural area such as mine would have known everything about you were doing, and the Klan would have singled you out, the only thing worse than a white outsider "stirring up the niggers" being a white insider.

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