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September 30, 1988 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FEBRUARY 12-14, 1989

• Round trip fare from Detroit-Tel Aviv-Detroit. Accom-
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16 FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 1988

JEWISH
114110111AL

(KEREN KAYEMETH
LEISRAEL) INC.

1...• ■••■■•

Mississippi

Continued from Page 7

you are in an automobile and
I'm a policeman who has just
stopped you."
"Let me see your licence,"
Grady, in the role of the
policeman, said.
"Say `sir' when you speak to
me, nigger. We don't like nig-
ger ministers down here."
We were soon to learn that
the enactment of what we
might encounter exactly
replicated incidents that were
to befall us in the next few
days.
We left Memphis the next
morning for Hattiesburg,
stopping when necessary
within black communities
where we were hospitably
received and relatively safe.
We arrived in Hattiesburg
and bedded down in a
makeshift dormitory on
Mobile Street in the heart of
the black ghetto area. We felt
safe there, although during
the first night we were
awakened by shouts and gun-
fire — a group of night-riders
careening past in their cars
and taking a few pot-shots —
intended most likely to
frighten us and warn us off.
We were soon introduced to
our "team" — the young
COFO workers and the adult
teachers who formed the Hat-
tiesburg contingent of the
voter registration project. It is
significant that fully 25 per-
cent of the workers in Hat-
tiesburg were Jewish. Most of
them I found came from non-
religious or peripherally
Jewish homes. But their
presence in disproportionate
numbers testified, I am con-
vinced, that Jewish values
are transmitted from genera-
tion to generation, even
where there are lapses of
observance or synagogue par-
ticipation. Somehow, the in-
junction, "the stranger you
shall not oppress, for you
know the very being of the
stranger, seeing that you were
strangers in the land of
Egypt," manages to effect the
carry-over of the values it
represents, even beyond the
retention of the words.
We did canvassing for three
mornings. We patiently
rehearsed the answers to
questions and the most effec-
tive way to respond to the
pressures of the examination.
Everywhere in the black com-
munity we were received with
kindliness, understanding
and appreciation.
Many of those we visited
had been turned away again
and again but intended to
continue to seek the right to
vote.
The third day we had a good
morning of canvassing. One
young woman in our assign-
ed neighborhood had
registered successfully — a

token to the whites, a mean-
ingful symbol to the blacks.
My canvassing partner was
David Owen, a college-
student volunteer. We had
been working since 8:30 a.m.
and so at about 11:45, feeling
the pangs of hunger, we call-
ed it a morning and started
back to the Morning Star
Baptist Church where the
workers were accustomed to
convene for lunch and where
each day the ladies of the con-
gregation put out a wonderful
pot-lunch lunch: home-baked
breads and cakes, collard
greens and black-eyed peas
and heaps of fried chicken.
A moment later we saw
Larry Spear, another college
student and two black girls.
They, too, were returning
from canvassing and heading
for lunch at the church.
We waved to them, then
met them at the single-track
railroad line that served the

remember
shouting after
seeing David
bleeding from the
back of his head,
"My God, haven't
you done enough
already?" '

<

°

stock-yard. Foolishly, in full
view of the "red-neck"
loungers, we stood there com-
paring notes about our mor-
ning experiences. Then the
boys proposed that we take a
short cut and walk down the
track to the church.
We had not gone much
more than 20 yards when we
heard a chorus of raucous
children's voices. "Look at the
white niggers," they shouted.
This was disconcerting, but ( 111- '
after all, they were only
children. So we paid no heed
and walked on.
Suddenly we heard the
screech of brakes and a white
pick-up truck came to a stop
on the dirt road next to the
track. Two men armed, with
tire irons and shouting
c'H
obscenities came charging up
the embankment.
"We'll get you, you nigger
lovers!" was their repeated
"war cry." My initial impulse
was to talk to them. More as
a result of naivete than of
irony, I wanted to enter into
"dialogue?'
Then, too, I had long been
convinced that all human be-
ings are kedoshim — that the
"image of God" to which we
are in duty bound to respond
C-,
with reverence is present in
Gr
every one of us and hence
dialogue should be possible.
Since Mississippi, 1964,

cJ

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