`New Freedom Ride’

A protest folk song from late 1990’s that pays tribute to the protest folk music scene of early 1960’s–and calls for a “new freedom ride” in 21st-century music scene.

They picked up guitars
And they sang out the truth
And broadsides they hurled at the world.
The poetry they wrote
It left people moved
And helped wake up many lost souls.

Pete and Joan
They sang out alone
In the Village, in Cambridge, in Newport.
And Bob and Phil
Protested evil
And pointed their fingers at wrong.

Peter, Paul and Mary
They joined up with Judy
And freedom called over the air.
And Odetta and Buffy
Sang out their songs roughly
That peace it was better than war.

Richard and Mimi
Packed sorrows up freely
And Ritchie, he kept on the path.
And Gordon and Sis
They didn’t give up
And Gil, he taught others his craft.

Freedom Singers and Tom
They spread the alarm
And Dave sang his blues out with soul.
And over in England
Peggy and Ewan
The danger in mines, they exposed.

The years have flown by
And people still cry
And the screen world is still filled with lies.
And some they still try
While others have died
And it’s time for a New Freedom Ride.

Yes, they picked up guitars
And they sang out the truth
And broadsides they hurled at the world.
The poetry they wrote
It gave people hope
And helped wake up many lost souls

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Michael Brown Was Gunned Down–Bob A. Feldman and Jan

A recently-written public domain protest folk song about the killing of Michael Brown, the grand jury’s non-indictment and the protests by people in Ferguson, Missouri.

Michael Brown was gunned down
In a Missouri town
And the grand jury refused to indict.
So the people did protest
For they could not find justice
And they vowed to continue the fight.

Without a warrant
The cop ordered him to stop
And cursed him
For walking in the street.
Although he was unarmed
Six shots from the cop’s gun
Killed the 18-year-old youth
How can we let these things happen?
We’ve got to stop these things happening. (chorus)

Without any trial
The cop sentenced him to die
On Canfield Drive
In Ferguson.
His black hands were in the air
But the white cop did not care
For he knew he’d get away
With murder.
How can we let these things happen?
We’ve got to stop these things happening. (chorus)

An act of petty theft
Is not punishable by death
According to the laws
Of the land.
Yet for alleged theft of two cigars
From the Ferguson Market store
The System lets cops
Kill a young Black man.
How can we let these things happen?
We’ve got to stop these things happening.
How can we let these things happen?
We’ve got to stop these things happening.

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Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories–From Berkeley To Kent State, 1964-1970

Epilogue: Columbia SDS Memories: From Berkeley To Kent State
From news of the Berkeley revolt to the Columbia revolt to news of Ted’s death to news of Kent State in less than 6 years. Within these years are my Columbia SDS memories. Freedom Now and World Peace and Equality had not been won yet. And the 1960s had still not brought me the sustained romantic love relationship I had hoped to discover with Rona in 1965. But I had learned the truth about U.S. society and I felt that I was one of its un-indicted outlaws, in some ways.

The time between the Berkeley Student Revolt and the Kent State Massacre had revealed why a Revolution was necessary in the United States for a genuinely democratic society to be established within its borders. The test of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 21st-century was whether my generation could collectively make that Revolution happen, despite the intensified repression that the U.S. imperialist Establishment appeared willing to lay on us, in order to try to turn us into docile, but cheerful, robots—as we aged.

Seize their TV
Then speak freely.

Turn 2014 into 1964.

All Power to the People!


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Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories–The Bronx and Kent State, 1970

Chapter 27: The Bronx and Kent State, 1970
I decided to finally get a 9-to-5 clerical job to secure the bread needed to get a cheap apartment in this post-draft period of my life. I went to the New York State Employment Agency and it referred me to Cardinal Export Company, which sold RCA vinyl records around the globe. I was hired by a guy named Mr. Lerner to be a biller-typist. It turned out that Mr. Lerner was an ex-Communist Party member from the 1930s, now in his late 50s, who now lived in Great Neck.

Once I was getting my $100 per week in wages, I traveled up to the Bronx because that was where the cheapest apartments were being advertised, after I had decided that I didn’t want to move into a vacant apartment off Avenue D on the Lower East Side which I had been offered. In the Bronx, I found myself a 2 ½ room apartment a few blocks from Fordham University, south of Fordham Road, in a working-class Italian-American enclave. The rent-controlled apartment’s rent was $57 per month.

Before I moved from the Lower East Side to the Bronx, I spent an evening smoking pot with Melvin, in his Lower East Side apartment. Melvin had dropped out of Columbia a year before the 1968 student revolt, become one of the weirdest-looking Movement freaks in the City long before other white New Leftists became freaks and been one of Newsreel’s founders in late 1967. But in early 1970 Melvin had been pushed out of Newsreel for being “too anarchistic.” Yet Melvin had always been a very emotional, very enthusiastic and very “up” person.

I asked Melvin what he thought was happening in Newsreel, in particular, and to the New York City Movement, in general, these days. Melvin laughed and replied: “Uptight, bureaucratic people have taken over Newsreel and the Movement nowadays. Freaks don’t feel comfortable with Movement people anymore. People like us have to develop alternatives to what remains of the Movement.”

April 1970 was spent by me being bored with my 9-to-5 clerical job, painting my apartment in the Bronx and trying to recover from my heartbreak at not being loved in return by Florrie. At first, I felt an identity crisis, because for so many years I had always done New Left activist work on a daily basis, but now most evenings and weekends were free of day-to-day political activism. Once I began to get back into folk songwriting, folk singing and guitar-playing again, however, I felt my identity crisis was being resolved. I also went to an early April “Free The Panther 21” rally in Central Park and march across the Queensboro Bridge to the Long Island City Jail (in which some Black Panther Party activists were locked up) which Lew had organized, and which was attended by thousands of people.

Then Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia on April 30, 1970—2 years after the cops had invaded Columbia University’s campus. The following day, I left early Friday afternoon from work and took the New Haven Railroad up to New Haven to attend a “Free The Panthers” May Day rally on the New Haven Green. Yale University President Brewster had diluted the potential militancy of the protest by making Yale University campus facilities available to pro-Panther demonstrators and expressing doubt that Bobby Seale could get a fair trial in the United States in 1970. National Guardsmen, though, were still walking around the city streets, just in case mass militancy developed. That night, demonstrators ended up being tear-gassed, as we attempted to march around the downtown area, in front of the New Haven Courthouse. Early Saturday morning, I got bored walking around stoned and inhaling all the tear gas that was still in the air, so I took a train back down to New York City.

The following Monday, when I left work and was heading downtown to visit my sister, I saw the headlines about the Kent State Massacre. Four white students had been killed by Ohio National Guardsmen. Like everybody else, I was both angered and somewhat surprised. I had still thought the Establishment was reluctant to shoot down white anti-war demonstrators. It now appeared it wasn’t. I looked forward to the emergency demonstration in Washington, D.C. that was immediately scheduled for the weekend and I expected that the Saturday demo would be militant.

News of the Kent State Massacre ignited campuses all across the U.S. and the U.S. mass media publicized Movement resistance in a big way. Local high school students in the Bronx spontaneously walked out of school for the first time and chanted: “One, two, three, four! We don’t want your fuckin’ war!” As the big national Saturday demo in D.C. approached, it appeared that we might be on the verge of Revolution in the U.S., analogous to what had happened in France in May 1968, less than two years before.

My sister and I hitched down to D.C. on Saturday and we were given a ride by an older anti-war guy, who was a public high school teacher. But when I got to the demo of 200,000, it seemed more like a picnic than a militant anti-war and anti-repression protest. Bureaucratic Movement people and left-liberal Movement marshals were against encouraging any kind of spontaneous mass non-violent civil disobedience to protest the Kent State killings. No Weatherpeople appeared to be around to organize any effective non-violent militancy, outside of the legalistic protest that we had all been channeled into.

In a car on the way back to New York City, I felt that the Movement, as a result of its unwillingness to collectively organize mass non-violent civil disobedience outside the White House to protest both the Kent State killings and the invasion of Cambodia, had made a major tactical blunder. A few days later two African-American students were killed by police on the campus of Jackson State in Mississippi, but the corporate media gave it much less publicity than it had given the killing of white students at Kent State in Ohio

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Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories–Uncle Sam Don’t Want Me, 1970

Chapter 26: Uncle Sam Don’t Want Me, 1970
In late February 1970, I had finally received the order to report for my pre-induction physical. I mentioned this fact to Howie and he furnished me the telephone number of a doctor who was the mother of one of the other former High School Student Union activists. After I telephoned the anti-war doctor, she referred me to another anti-war doctor, who arranged an appointment with me in her office.

I asked a few Newsreel people whether they thought it made political sense for me to enter the U.S. Army and try to do anti-war organizing from within. The consensus was that little could still be accomplished by Movement activists going into the U.S. Army and that Newsreel people, themselves, would not be able to provide me with much outside support if I was so foolhardy as to go into the U.S. Army.

So on the day of my pre-induction physical, I took an early morning BMT subway train down to Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; and in my pocket was a letter. The letter stated that I was psychologically unfit for military service and that I would likely endanger the lives of my fellow combatants in a combat situation, because of my psychotic fear of authority.

At the military base, I noticed that among the predominantly African-American and Puerto Rican group of 200 young men, about 5 or 6 white young men had large manila envelopes with X-rays in them. I waited in line as the 200 of us got processed and examined; and I held my anger in at this first personal contact with the discipline of a U.S. military that was committing genocide in Viet Nam. I felt like shouting out to the other pre-inductees: “How can you let them take your life for use as cannon fodder? Why don’t we all start shouting `Hell, No! We won’t go!?” But I realized that if I made a political scene at the pre-induction physical my chances for a psychological deferment would vanish and it would mean jail, induction or exile for me.

I did get into an argument, however, with one of the African-American soldiers who controlled your position on line, after I complained aloud about the slow pace of the pre-induction physical examination process. In response, he ordered me to the end of the line.

After hours and hours of waiting, most of the other potential conscripts were certified as fit to be drafted and told that their pre-induction physical was over. About 10 of us, however, were ordered to wait outside the Army shrink’s office. Five of us had letters in our pockets from doctors and five of us had no letters. After about another hour of waiting, it was my turn to be interviewed by the Army shrink. I walked into his office with a downcast expression.

He asked for my letter, opened the envelope and read it, as I sat on the other side of his desk. He then looked at me with some disdain, as I maintained my downcast expression, and asked me a few questions related to my use of alcohol and my “sketchy” job history since getting a college diploma 7 months before. Then he stamped some papers and sent me to another office in the pre-induction physical center. At the next office, a young soldier looked at me with some pity, stamped my papers again and informed me that I was “4F.”

I continued to maintain my downcast expression, as I walked out of the pre-induction physical center at a slow pace. When I got closer to the gate of the base, I started to walk a little faster. Once I was off the base, I began to smile and laugh and broke into a run to the subway. I felt happier than I had ever been since the bombing of North Viet Nam had begun on a daily basis in early 1965.

Uncle Sam would never want me again. I had successfully resisted being drafted for military service in an immoral war. I could continue to devote my life to serving the cause of human liberation, not the needs of the U.S. military machine.

Once the draft threat was no longer over my head, I personally felt less desperate than I had been since high school. I still intended to do some kind of Movement-oriented work, but now I was doing it by choice and not also because I felt imprisoned by the draft threat. After I left Newsreel, however, I did not know where I would now fit into the Movement, exactly.

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Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories–All Power To My Sisters, 1970

Chapter 25: All Power To My Sisters, 1970
Increasingly, though, some Movement women were starting to question the political drift towards the use of militant tactics that would include destroying U.S. corporate and military property by anti-war bomb-planting. Political arguments started to be made by certain Movement women that it was not only left-adventurist to resist the war machine by planting bombs, but that it actually expressed an anti-feminist politics of macho for Movement people to either support or practice the use of revolutionary violence in the U.S.—even if Black Panther Party activists also justified its use in response to fascist repression.

In March 1970, Newsreel’s women’s caucus, under Andrea’s leadership and influenced by the example of the women’s takeover of the (now-defunct) Rat counter-cultural newsweekly, began to push for Movement women control of Newsreel. Because about two-thirds of Newsreel’s 40 to 50 New York City members were Movement women, the demand for radical feminist control of Newsreel could not be logically resisted on democratic grounds. As Movement women took control of Newsreel, those men who wished to remain in Newsreel were compelled to equally share organizational shitwork duties and child care duties with Newsreel women.

Newsreel men were also compelled to accept “personality criticism,” as well as political criticism from Newsreel women, at intense meetings, in order to rid their personalities and political practice of male chauvinist tendencies. Newsreel women were also required to submit to collective personality and political criticism in these emotionally-draining March 1970 criticism-self-criticism sessions. But criticism of Movement women was usually done in a less harsh and more supportive way than was the criticism of Movement men. Mass organizing and mass outreach work pretty much came to a standstill because Newsreel women felt that the organization’s top priority should be to eliminate all vestiges of male chauvinism within the organization, before resuming any mass outreach work.

Some of the criticism that Newsreel people leveled at each other was productive. But much of it seemed organizationally and emotionally self-destructive. Some Newsreel people began to feel emotionally closer or politically empowered because of the intensity and frankness of these criticism-self-criticism sessions. But many activists were trashed by other members of Newsreel, whom they were quite fond of previously, for petty reasons, in a politically destructive way.

Sometimes it seemed like the predominantly upper-middle-class white Movement women were using the predominantly upper-middle-class white Newsreel men as surrogates for their lovers in previous failed marriages or relationships or for male supremacist institutions in general; given the resentment and bitterness that came out in these demoralizing meetings. Many Newsreel people no longer seemed to trust each other or accept the weirdness or eccentricities of each other’s personality or style of doing political work. Movement men who were not attached romantically to Newsreel women were at a special disadvantage now within the organization; because they lacked a Newsreel woman to certify to other Newsreel women that they were “dealing with their male chauvinism” adequately.

Some Movement women who felt dissatisfied with the quality of their love relationships with Movement men attempted to solve some of their relationships’ sexual or emotional problems by criticizing their lovers at these formal Newsreel criticism-self-criticism sessions. One Newsreel woman criticized a Newsreel man in front of the rest of the collective for not letting her lie on top of him when they made love to each other. Newsreel men were requested by Newsreel women to take turns revealing the history of all their previous relationships with women to other Newsreel men, in order to collectively deepen their anti-sexist consciousness.

When I mentioned to my sister some of the ways in which Newsreel women were pressuring Newsreel men to “deal with their male chauvinism” and change their personalities, she was somewhat surprised and remarked that the process sounded somewhat “neurotic.” A Leviathan magazine article by Marge Piercy, titled “The Grand Coulee Dam,” was also influential in encouraging the Newsreel women to verbally trash white Movement men at the height of the Panther 21 trial and the war in Viet Nam.

I concluded that it was politically positive for Newsreel women to set the agenda for their Movement organization, given the depth of inter-personal and institutional sexism both within and outside the Movement. But I also concluded that it no longer made much political sense for me to work with Newsreel. Without a distribution network for its films, Newsreel really wasn’t able to make any mass political impact in the U.S. And until the demoralizing internal conflicts between Movement men and women were satisfactorily resolved, it appeared unlikely that any adequate mass distribution network for Newsreel films would ever develop.

Before leaving Newsreel, I attempted to get Florrie interested in me romantically, since I still was wild about her, despite my feeling that Newsreel wasn’t really making any political headway because of its internal and external political problems. But Florrie was not interested in getting any closer to me outside of a Movement work-situation. So when I finally managed to beat the draft near the end of March 1970, I dropped out of Newsreel.

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Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories–The Explosion At West 11th Street, 1970

Chapter 24: The Explosion At West 11th Street, 1970
Less than two weeks after I had moved into the E.6th St. apartment, I was staffing the Newsreel office on a weekday in early March 1970. Around 10:30 in the morning, I glanced at the New York Timesfront page and noticed an article about some kind of fire in the Village which had produced fatalities. As I read through the first few paragraphs, it began to sink in emotionally that Ted was now dead. [According to the book Family Circle by Susan Braudy:

“…In front of the burning house, an FBI agent who had been part of the surveillance team keeping watch on the young radicals quickly snapped pictures of the house’s crumpling brick Greek-revival façade. Since the buildings on the block were of significant design interest, he had been posing as an architectural historian…”

A footnote in Braudy’s Family Circle book also noted that “another FBI agent, Larry Granthwol, would attempt to take credit for the explosion, claiming he had tampered with the bomb’s mechanisms.”]

I put the newspaper down on the Newsreel office desk, told another Newsreel activist that somebody I knew had died in this Village explosion and said I was going outside for a few minutes to get something to eat. On the street, I walked around the block in a daze, began to contemplate what the loss to the U.S. Movement of Ted meant, and cursed the imperialist and totalitarian U.S. society that had forced its most humanistic white youth to become urban guerrillas.

Over the next few days, Diana was identified as another dead victim of what was being defined by the media as a “townhouse bomb-making factory.” Cathy and Kathy were identified as two women who had fled nude from the post-explosion fire; and a third body was not identified. There was some newspaper speculation over the next few weeks that the third casualty was Mark. But it was eventually determined that Terry was the third casualty.

I had not met Diana personally before her death, but her life pattern had resembled the pattern of other Movement white women I had met: 1. born of great wealth; 2. unselfish missionary-type Peace Corps work in a Third World country; 3. identification with, and non-violent participation in, Civil Rights and Anti-War movement activity; 4. radicalization as a result of the Movement’s failure to end the Viet Nam War or prevent government repression of the Black Liberation Movement; 5. increased consciousness of the depth of female oppression in the U.S.; and 6. commitment to Weatherman-led armed struggle in the U.S. in order to materially aid the Vietnamese and stop the repression of the Black Panther Party by “bringing the war home.”

I had met Terry once at Mark’s W.110th St. apartment during the 1968-69 school year and I hadn’t been that impressed with him. He was an SDS regional organizer in Ohio, who had evidently done great political work, under adverse conditions, at Kent State University in the late 1960s. But he seemed more elitist, less warm and less interested in learning about the work other New Left activists were engaged in than most other Movement people I had met. Within the Weatherman organization, however, Terry had evidently blossomed into one of its most courageous, audacious activists and his militant fighting spirit and selfless commitment to making Revolution apparently had matched Ted and Diana’s commitments in intensity.

Life suddenly seemed more meaningless and empty, now that Ted was dead. At Columbia, neither Ted nor I had assumed that either of us would die at so early an age. At worst, we expected to be jailed, exiled, or just temporarily caught in life-threatening situations at an early age, as a result of either draft resistance activism or revolutionary political activism.

There was no funeral for Ted, Terry or Diana. Most non-Weather Movement people were afraid to put together any kind of funeral because it was felt that the event would be crawling with FBI agents; and because other Movement people were fearful of possibly being associated with support for Weather bomb-making plans if they were seen at such a funeral. After the Townhouse explosion at 18 West 11th Street, Weather activists in New York City appeared to totally vanish, so they couldn’t put together any Weatherman funeral for Ted, Terry and Diana. And Ted’s grief-stricken parents were too deeply shocked and embittered at the Movement to set up any public funeral for Ted. It was not publicly revealed whether Ted was cremated or buried.

In the evening of the day I read of Ted’s death, I telephoned my mother to assure her that I wasn’t involved in what Ted had been up to. But I told her that Ted had “lived the way he wanted to live” and “his life had been rich in deep experiences,” despite the tragedy of his early death. For the next few weeks, I would usually dream of Ted. It was hard to accept the reality that Ted was gone and would not see the Revolution that he had worked so hard for in the 1960s and that Movement people expected to be just around the corner.

Ten days after Ted’s death, SNCC activists Ralph Featherstone and “Che” Payne were killed in Maryland when a bomb exploded in their car, near where the trial of SNCC leader H.Rap Brown (n/k/a Jamil Al-Amin and currently imprisoned in a Southern jail) was taking place. There was uncertainty about whether the deaths of Ralph Featherstone and “Che” Payne resulted from an FBI-engineered assassination or were accidental. Later in March 1970, also, some corporate offices in New York City skyscrapers were bombed by some anti-war activists. The 1970s seemed like it might be a “heavy” decade, in terms of the level of popular struggle against the U.S. corporate establishment.

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