HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR IN NEW WEST MAGAZINE ["KEEP FIGHTING"]  JANUARY 15 2007   UPDATED WITH NEWS AND COMMENTS -- PLUS HUNTER BEAR'S REPORT TO THE FOUR DIRECTIONS [FEBRUARY 15 2007]

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:  KEEPING ON,  KEEPING ON  [JANUARY 19 2007]

See also this contemporary page:  http://hunterbear.org/duel_in_the_shadows.htm

 

I do a fair amount of always very well received social justice public speaking in and around Pocatello and the general region.  And some of this is focused on Martin Luther King Day and the Southern Movement -- and various civil rights issues.  Our regional hospital -- Portneuf Medical Center -- approached me on December 6th, 2006 and asked me to speak on those topics and, of course, I agreed.  A day or two later, the Hospital approached Idaho State University [here at Poky and adjacent to the Hospital] and offered to bring them into this promising arrangement. The initial reaction by ISU was affirmative and a university room was mentioned. But then things from that perspective dragged on without a formally firm ISU commitment and one week passed into two and three and then into four.  And then ISU decided not to go with us. Our Hospital affair, of course, continued and occurred in fine fashion on Friday, January 19th:  very good group -- excellent cross-section, great food, much attentive interest, and thoroughly congenial with many good questions and very solid comments.  Covered much social justice turf -- including the challenges facing our Native people. Everyone seemed extremely pleased. Maria and Josie and Cameron accompanied me and we had a great time. [Nice to be at the Hospital without being as close to the Spirit World as I have there on several relatively recent occasions!]  And there were some ISU folks present.

My photo was taken with a Shoshone/Bannock elder and also with a Hospital administrator.

Steve Proctor, a key staffer at Portneuf, wrote a very kind letter to our regional daily newspaper, Idaho State Journal, which was published on January 29  2007:

"I would like to thank Portneuf Medical Center for inviting Hunter Gray to speak with us on Jan. 19, 2007, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s  birthday.  Professor Gray, formerly known as John Salter, Jr., is the author of Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle  of Struggle and Schism.

His book captures the emotions of the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the early 1960s, and what better person to share the story.  Professor Gray was an organizer for civil rights in Jackson and a close friend to Medgar Evers and an associate of Dr. King's. I found him to be one of the most inspirational speakers who I have listened to, and considering some of the harrowing life experiences that he has had, his present day optimism was unexpected, however refreshing.

I hope that I have the good fortune of being in his audience again."

Steve Proctor

____________

A week ago [January 12], Steve Medellin, a writer for the truly excellent and broadly read web mag, New West, came to our home and recorded/filmed me for three very interesting hours.  His subsequently published story on January 15th  -- a long one -- is now on our Lair of Hunterbear website.

 
This piece has evoked much positive feedback.  My youngest son, Peter [Mack], a key editor in the Lee Enterprises newspaper chain and based at Lincoln, NE, wrote the writer of this long article:
 
Steven --
 
You wrote a fine story about my father for New West. He's a remarkable man with a hell of a history, and your piece captured that.
 
I don't think it was easy. I've been an assigning editor and writing coach for years (I'm the city editor at the Journal Star in Lincoln, Neb.) and I spend a lot of time helping reporters frame their stories. The hard part, as you know, is deciding what not to put in. I've spent a lot of time thinking about writing about my father's life -- and attempted it a few times -- but he's lived such a rich and varied life that it's hard not to wander down countless biographical backroads.
 
You found an appropriate hook -- MLK day -- and kept your story focused. But it was clear from your piece he has many, many more experiences to share.
 
Still, if your readers walk away with nothing more than your final lines, well, you'll have fully told his story.
 
Thanks again.
 
Peter Salter
_________________________________________________________
 
Nialetch/Onen
 
From the mountains of Eastern Idaho
 

HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR]  MI'KMAQ,  ST. FRANCIS ABENAKI, ST. REGIS MOHAWK

 

 

A Martin Luther King Day Story

Lair of the Hunter Bear: “Keep Fighting”

 

By Contributing Writer, 1-15-07
 
  Caption:
THE HUNTER BEAR CHRONICLES – JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI AND THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE ‘SIXTIES

By Steven Medellin

I am an ardent and inveterate surfer on the ‘Net. I enjoy sitting down to a session of Google and going where the current takes me. I recall, back in 2004, settling in and searching for Idaho-based blogs. Being born and raised here in my lovely Gem State, I’m always curious what my fellow Idahoans are thinking and writing.

A blog which caught my attention was titled Lair of the Hunter Bear, written by a man named Hunter Gray, who goes by the nickname “Hunter Bear.” Gray’s father, Frank Gray, had been adopted at a young age by a white family in the Northeast and given the new name John Salter. Late in life, he changed his name back to the one he’d originally been given at birth. His son, John R. Salter, Jr., who in 1995 legally changed his name to Hunter Gray, believes he was born into the civil rights movement.

Hunter Gray’s father was a full-blooded Indian from the East Coast, while his mother was Scottish-American from an old frontier western family. In that atmosphere, Gray became exposed to a great many civil rights and human rights issues. His parents were extremely active on behalf of Native people, African-Americans, Hispanics, and anyone else who got kicked around.

Gray grew up in the Northern Arizona/Western New Mexico region and his ties with the Navajo Nation, both then and now, are extremely close. He is the author of the book (1979, now out-of-print) “Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism,” and is the recipient of the 2005 Elder Recognition Award of Worldcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. Professor Gray and his wife Eldri have lived in Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, and now reside in Pocatello, Idaho.

The image on Gray’s website that stuck with me was an old black-and-white newspaper photo showing a young man, shirt torn and bloodied, yet with an air of defiance. The description attached to the UPI photo from June 13, 1963: “VETERAN OF JACKSON—His shirt ripped and bloody, Prof. John Salter attends a Negro mass rally after being clubbed by police during civil-rights demonstrations.” The demonstration took place a day after NAACP field secretary and civil rights leader Medgar Evers died from a rifle bullet to the back by racist assassin Byron De La Beckwith. During the six years Gray spent fighting for civil rights in Jackson, Mississippi he was beaten several times, and hospitalized twice.

In May of 2005 I attended the Bonneville County Democrats Truman Banquet in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Sitting at a table near the back of the room with a friend of mine and his wife, we sat down to dinner and to listen to the keynote speaker. I hadn’t seen a program and had no idea who would be at the podium, and when I saw a large elderly man, in casual clothes and big Stetson hat slowly make his way up to speaker’s platform, I was curious. Instead of standing at the podium he sat in a chair next to it, explaining in a deep penetrating voice that he had recently contracted Lupus and was unable to stand for any length of time.

As he began to tell his story of fighting in Jackson, Mississippi for civil rights in the 1960s, a lightbulb went off in my head when I suddenly realized who he was. I turned to my friend, who’s forgotten more about the Internet than I’ll ever know, and whispered excitedly, “I know who he is -- that’s the Lair of the Hunter Bear guy!” We listened to Gray’s entire speech, as did the rest of the room, with rapt attention. Afterward, my friend and I went up to Mr. Gray and introduced ourselves, and mentioned that we knew of and had been to his website, which seemed to please him. I let him know then that, since we both lived in the same city, I hoped to interview his someday and hear more of his amazing and historical stories. Although it took almost two years, I finally was able to make that happen, sitting down with him in his hillside home on Pocatello’s East Bench.

At sixteen years old, fudging his age, Gray was fighting fires in the ponderosa pine forests around Flagstaff, Arizona. Growing up in a rough-and-tumble atmosphere, Gray learned how to defend his rights. He also learned at an early age what he considers the sensible use of firearms in self-defense, which proved fortunate in his later years in the South coming up against Ku Klux Klansmen and others of their kind.

After serving a full hitch in the Army, Gray was discharged in 1955 and entered college, with a focus on sociology. In that setting he became strongly involved in one of the most colorful and indigenously radical organizations in the country, the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, which at that time was a major power in the copper mining industry in Montana, Idaho, Utah and Arizona. Gray became actively involved in organizing, collective bargaining and labor defense.

With this labor-movement experience and a college degree under his belt, Gray and his wife Eldri moved to Mississippi in the latter part of 1961. He didn't come into the Southern racial and political situation as a neophyte, but neither was he prepared for the overwhelming segregationist complex that was Mississippi in the early '60s. Through legal and political means – backed up by force of terror -- half the population was cruelly repressed by a network of segregation laws. Gray feels that what made Mississippi different from the other southern states that supported segregation was that it was a statewide complex with a lack of outside industry to mitigate the repression. He explains, “Alabama had Union Carbide and U.S. Steel, and parts of North Carolina had textile factories which, while certainly anti-union and by no means a paradise, had as their primary concern a contemporary way to make money. Basically, they enforced an old feudal system, which was very profitable for the people who ran things.”

At the time Gray and his wife arrived in Mississippi the governor was Ross Barnett, who was heavily involved in the White Citizens' Council, a powerful organization that had sprang up in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954. These "Uptown Klan," as the WCC was known, were often leaders in their community. They officially decried violence but, using the poor whites as their pawns, worked to keep down and "keep in their place" the black half of the state and, by association, other minorities. Terror was rampant, and segregationist Mississippi was girding itself against the Civil Rights movement. Freedom Riders had come into the state, but being an outside force they had limited success. They were assaulted in Alabama, and once they reached Mississippi were quickly arrested and thrown in jail. Getting any kind of organized resistance going during this time, Gray recalls, was extremely difficult.

Gray's initial role was as a faculty member at Tougaloo College, a black-owned institution just north of Jackson. What made Tougaloo unique was that it was privately funded through church donations in the North as well as the United Negro College Fund, thus was able to integrate its faculty and staff. In the time that Gray was in Jackson, Mississippi, from 1961 through 1967, he transitioned from being a professor to becoming a full-time civil rights organizer for a group closely aligned to Dr. Martin Luther King's Southern Leadership Conference.

At Tougaloo in the fall of 1961, Gray says, “a student came up to me after one of my lectures on civil rights and asked me to become the advisor to the school's NAACP council. At that point, the NAACP organizations were very small and isolated, and there was no significant civil rights movement in Mississippi. In some areas, any literature relating to the organization had to be mailed in plain covers to prevent it being confiscated and destroyed. It was a formidable situation, and nothing was safe with the WCC and the Klan firmly in control”
.
The youth council initially was very small, and in the fall of 1961 Gray and the Tougaloo students were tentatively feeling their way. Banding together with others, they launched an underground newspaper called the Mississippi Free Press. In the entire state of Mississippi there were very few newspaper editors who could be considered moderate, and every other paper in the state either tried to ignore the situation or parroted the racist line, which was that blacks and other minorities were less than human. The WCC had issued a curriculum for younger children in the white schools which stated, "Bluebirds play with bluebirds only, and white chickens do not mingle with black chickens." It went on in the higher grades to explain that Southerners were the true Americans and opposed to race mixing, and also taught that "race mixers" were Communists and traitors to their country. This was the sort of education that much of the white population was fed. Those who knew better, and there were many, simply kept their mouths shut out of fear of being exposed by the WCC's spies. Mississippi even had a secret police agency called the Sovereignty Commission, which created files and surreptitiously gathered data on people. Many years after the commission was disbanded, Gray was finally able to read the file gathered on him, but only after signing a confidentiality agreement.

In the early 1960s Jackson had a population of around 140,000 people, split nearly 50/50 between blacks and whites, with a police force of 600 white men. Segregation was total, as it was in virtually every other part of Mississippi. By holding regular meetings, the youth council quickly grew, consisting primarily of kids in high school, along with some Tougaloo College students. Gray had been warned by some of the college faculty not to get involved in the youth council, but says he and his wife weren't deterred. “Locally, the most inspiring person was Medgar Evers, who had been the field secretary for the NAACP since 1954,” Gray recounted. “Medgar was the first person to hold the post. Eldri and I considered him to be a very courageous person, and we became close friends.”

When the youth council first tried to register black voters, it turned out to be almost impossible. Mississippi, like various other Southern states, had erected barriers against it. Blacks were forced to write out sections of the Mississippi state constitution from memory, or take literacy tests which were interpreted by whites. It wasn’t unusual for black college graduates to fail the tests. Maybe the “i” wasn’t dotted, or the “t” properly crossed; almost any excuse to fail a black registrant was acceptable. Mississippi had also added what they called the “Interpretation Provision,” where the registrant had to interpret a long section of the state constitution to the satisfaction of the registrar, who themselves were oftentimes illiterate. Virtually no blacks were allowed to register, and many poor whites were also denied the chance to vote.

Gray and the other activists found it difficult to get started. A mass meeting might consist of only 30 people; folks were afraid of being discovered by the police. “We had to find a way to ‘crack’ Jackson,” Gray recounted. “Being the capitol of Mississippi, we had to find a way to crack the system and open the door to something much better.”

By the next school year in the fall of 1962 other movements were beginning to spring forth, and Gray and the other activists began hearing the name “Martin King” with greater frequency. King had visited Mississippi a few times already, but was more involved in Alabama and Georgia. Soon after the school year began, circumstances began to heat up when the State of Mississippi was forced to accept Jim Meredith as the first black student to the University of Mississippi. This act brought downtown Jackson to the brink or rioting by armed, angry whites.

This was a significant breech in Mississippi’s wall of segregation, and on its heels the Jackson Youth Council initiated a boycott of the white businesses in the downtown, as well as some outlying areas. This had been tried earlier, but had not been followed through. This time, the protestors were determined to keep up the pressure. In contrast to previous situations, where pamphlets would be handed out and the boycott soon forgotten, the late fall of ’62 saw the group printing out over 120,000 leaflets. These were printed up surreptitiously and handed out to the black neighborhoods in and around Jackson, in places like black churches and laundromats.

The boycott leaflets were a start, but what really gained attention for the movement was when Gray, his wife Eldri and four black students conducted the first civil rights picket demonstration in the history of Jackson. Within a few minutes they were confronted by around a hundred police officers and arrested. The mayor, who was considering running for governor, blared it in all the papers and the boycott gained wide recognition. At this time, Gray believes, the whites in power didn’t really take the boycott seriously. But the group kept at it, and the resulting news coverage, publicizing their cause, proved to be their best ally.

The goal of the these civil rights activists was simple: an end to segregated facilities in stores, fair hiring practices, and for minority people to be called by courtesy titles – “Mr.”, “Miss”, “Mrs.”, rather than dismissive names like “Uncle”, “Auntie”, “Annie” or “Joe”. No one was asking the whites to suddenly like them, only that they give them the respect they deserved. Gray adds, “We very much wanted an end to segregated drinking and restroom facilities, things of that nature. The goals were, by today’s standards, very modest, but back then they were revolutionary.”

Soon after, more pickets were added, and Gray himself became a target of violence. His home in Tougaloo was shot, with the bullet missing his infant daughter by inches. Still, Gray and the other activist continued on. In the spring of 1963, and up through May and June the boycotts blossomed into a mass movement. It started with sit-ins, including the most violent attack of a sit-in in the history of the ‘60s which occurred at the Woolworth store in Jackson. For three hours the attack was televised and covered by the press, while a mob of young men physically attacked Gray and harassed the four young black women participating in the sit-in.

Gray noted how the Jackson movement began with pickets, then sit-ins, and grew to mass marches with hundreds of young people. “It wasn’t all that hard to mobilize,” Gray remembers, “because our movement had grown from about a dozen kids in the fall of 1961 to many hundreds of young people. It was a powerful force that ranged from 8-years of age to around 25 – it was a wide swath.”

In addition to holding several posts in the NAACP, Gray was also chosen to chair the Strategy Committee of the Jackson movement. This meant he was deeply involved in the formal planning of boycotts and other events, coordinating hundreds of young people and thousands of adults from the black community in Jackson.

The marches, like all demonstrations, were brutally suppressed. The governor and Jackson’s mayor erected a huge concentration camp at the state fairgrounds – barbed wire, armed guards, food thrown at the feet of those under arrest with the admonition “eat dogs, eat!” The guards would often urinate into the buckets of drinking water. The fairgrounds soon filled up with a large number of detainees, and though some were bonded out, others continued to be incarcerated. The city and state continued to arrest protestors on sight.

By this time it wasn’t only Jackson’s 600 white police patrolling the streets, but the thousand-member White Police Auxiliary, it was every white patrolman in the state, and constables from the various Mississippi counties. Sheriff’s deputies came from every one of Mississippi’s 82 counties. That was the segregationists’ army, but for their part the Jackson civil rights movement had their own, and their first assault was refusing to spend their money in many white-owned businesses in the area, refusing to buy at the boycotted stores. The effects of the boycott were soon felt, with many of the stores going out of business. The basic thrust of the boycott was to put pressure on the businessmen and win reforms, but at the same time to put pressure, through the business community, on the political structure in the state. “As the boycott went on,” Gray recalled, “some of the white businesses wanted to concede, but the White Citizens’ Council forced them to resist and threatened them with a white boycott.

The movement in Jackson was soon broadened, with a long list of new demands added, including desegregation of public facilities, schools and parks. Gray felt that the high point of the Jackson movement was in mid May to late June of 1963, marked by more nonviolent demonstrations on the part of the black community and paranoia and brutality by the whites. In the midst of this increased activity, Medgar Evers was shot and killed outside his home on the evening of June 11th by white supremacist assassin Byron De La Beckwith, who was a member of the White Citizens’ Council. “I was in a meeting with Medgar shortly before he was killed,” Gray said. “Medgar’s murder, far from frightening people, brought even more people out to support the movement. At that point, right after the murder, I called Martin Luther King, Jr. in my capacity as the chairman of the Strategy Committee and asked him if he would come to Jackson, Mississippi for Medgar’s funeral, and he readily agreed.”

Dr. King, at this point, was already a marked man, but Gray says King didn’t hesitate to come to Mississippi. Gray picked Dr. King up at the airport in Jackson on the morning of Evers’ funeral, along with King’s aide Dr. Ralph Abernathy, Secretary-Treasurer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and SCLC lawyer William Kunstler. It was a charged atmosphere at the airport, with a large number of police and hostile white people, though the police begrudgingly gave Gray and Dr. King an escort to the Black Masonic Temple in Jackson.

“During the drive, Dr. King and I had a very interesting conversation about the Jackson movement, about other movements, and about how hot it was that day, around 106-degrees and due to get a lot hotter as the day went on,” said Gray. “I was amazed at everyone’s coolness – I was cool, I mean in the sense of not being visibly jumpy. Those of us in the car acted very matter-of-fact about things, even though this was the worst racial situation going on in the country. Much of the white community would have loved to get us in their gun sights.”

Driving along the streets of Jackson the group in the car observed scenes of brutality and mass arrests. Gray found himself very impressed with Dr. King; though surprised how small he was physically, Gray was taken with King’s character and courage. In that several-mile stretch they found themselves talking about a variety of different subjects – where Gray had come from, what he thought about the Southwest, the police in Jackson and the condition of the Jackson movement.

Medgar Evers’ funeral was a huge affair, as was the historic march afterwards because it was the first to be legally permitted by the State of Mississippi concerning civil rights. It involved 6,000 people, mostly black, from all over the state and throughout the country. It included major figures from around the country including Dr. Ralph Bunche who was Undersecretary for Special Political Affair to the United Nations. There were a few white Mississippians in the march, but it mostly consisted of blacks from the state.

What stands out in Gray’s memory is marching through a number of neighborhoods, both black and white, for two and a half miles in temperatures over a hundred degrees. Marching only a few feet behind Dr. King, Gray found himself taken by the courage of everyone participating. At no point during that long march did Gray notice any hesitation or reluctance by Dr. King or any of the thousand marching in solidarity.

After Dr. King left to fly to another gathering in Virginia, a large, spontaneous demonstration occurred. Nearly 700 people massed in front of the Collins funeral parlor and began singing freedom songs while police closed around them. Soon the crowd moved as one back towards the white business district they had earlier crossed in the march, and during this walk back the police picked out and arrested 29 people, including Hunter Gray, taking them to the detention camp at the state fairground. The police, during the arrests, were clubbing marchers, firing weapons in the air and using tear gas. Those held at the fairgrounds were forced to “assume the position” in the hot sun for hours, but were eventually allowed to post bail.

A few days later Gray and his friend Ed King, chaplain at Tougaloo College, were driving back from a meeting with Jack Young, a local attorney with the NAACP when, in what Gray describes as “a very cunning, excellently carried-out plan” they were ambushed in a rigged car wreck which destroyed the vehicle. Gray was badly hurt, slamming into the steering wheel while King was seriously injured when he was thrown through the front windshield.

A few days before the crash, unbeknownst to Gray, President Kennedy and his brother, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy had been making a series of phone calls to officials in Jackson and had tentatively begun to work out a settlement concerning civil rights in the state.

Gray found himself in the hospital under armed guard to prevent anyone from visiting him. His African-American lawyer, Jess Brown, was able to get in to see him by pretending to be a hospital janitor charged with sweeping the floor. Gray recalls, “I recovered pretty fast; my friend took much longer. Jackson, Mississippi was finally “cracked,” and though it too a while for the full ramifications to appear, many soon became obvious.”

The Jackson movement had struck Mississippi segregation economically, using non-violent mass action, directly into the heart of the political-economic complex in the capitol of the most intransigent state in the union. The cost to the people in the movement was high, with many brutally beaten and other killed, including Medgar Evers. Many sacrifices had been made in the struggle for freedom, but in the end the results opened Mississippi to massive change and helped inspire the rest of the South. It also had broad national ramifications because it helped lead directly to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and a year later to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Through all this, the underlying spirit of the movement, as reflected by Martin Luther King, Jr. was non-violence. Gray thinks of Dr. King as a Ghandian in the purest sense, as, he says, were many people in the movement. “Many of us,” Gray said, “were not. We were ‘tactically’ non-violent. We were pledged to non-violent behavior even under the most difficult of circumstances. But where we drew the line, ourselves, between our position of tactical non-violence which we maintained through all the police brutality, and Dr. King’s Ghandiism, which was truly admirable, was we drew the line at individual self-defense – for instance, protecting oneself and family from Klan attacks at night.”

Since before his teenage years, Gray has been a member of the National Rifle Association. “I may not always approve of every political stance it takes,” he says, “but I do believe in the right to keep and bear arms. I had several firearms at different times in the South. One I was particularly fond of was a Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver. Medgar Evers traveled with a .45 automatic which he grew to know very well during his time in World War Two. We often traveled together, me with my revolver and him with his automatic. When the Klan attacked my home, and in other dangerous situations, we were very quick to reach for firearms.”

Gray added, “On the other hand, during the demonstrations themselves, and in all of our preparation for demonstrators, we took the position to follow tactical non-violence. Don’t give the other side the chance to have a “Sharpeville,” a reference to Sharpeville, South Africa, where demonstrators were shot down in substantial numbers by white South African Apartheid police.”

After recovering from his injuries Gray went on to full-time civil rights work. By the time he and his family moved away from Mississippi his credentials as a movement organizer and human-rights supporter were firmly established. “I’d even grown to like the South, in an odd way,” he mused.

What the people involved in the civil rights movement in Mississippi and throughout the South had accomplished during those tumultuous years in the 1960’s was, in Gray’s description, cracking the hard lines of resistance to social change, as was done in Jackson and elsewhere. Dr. King did it in Birmingham with the help of people like minister and civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth and thousands of grassroots citizens. According to Gray, there were thousands of people in the white community in Mississippi who knew madness when they saw it. “The governor, on the issue of segregation, was mad,” Gray said. “That was the only way to put it. George Wallace in Alabama was a clever opportunist who used the race issue for his political benefit. The governor of Mississippi believed the whole mythology.”

By 1967 voter registration was widespread among blacks and other minorities, and black people were being elected to office. With the resistance to social change falling by the wayside the influence of naked terrorism was broken, the fearsome White Citizens’ Council had crumbled to a shadow of its former organization, and desegregation was the new law of the land.

Through the 1960s the movement continued, and continues today. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in 1968 and the list of martyrs is long. “There’s still plenty of racism and other anti-people-isms here in the United States,” said Gray. “Minorities bear much of the brunt of this – Indians, Blacks, Chicanos and more recently, Muslims. There’s still a great deal of bigotry against other groups like homosexuals. Women are at risk in some settings. This fight is far from over.”

“To say that Dr. King made the movement would not be true,” said Gray. “He recognized it. He often said, ‘There go my people – I have to run to catch up.’ He was a reflection of the movement; the movement came from the grassroots. Dr. King came up from the grassroots, and he in turn inspired them. He articulated a vision that involved non-violence, but it also reached out to involve all of the people with the fewest alternatives, wherever they were.”

The fight goes on, and Hunter Gray’s memory of those who gave so much for the movement is strong. “I’ll always remember people like Medgar Evers, whose life was at risk for the nine long years that he was NAACP field secretary. I’ll always remember Dr. King; his calmness as we drove from the airport in Jackson, as if he were going down a quiet little street in Atlanta, rather than what was at the time the most dangerous racial situation in the country. And I’ll always remember the vast number of grassroots black people and their non-black allies who risked limbs, liberty and life to make a dream come as true as they could make it.”

“From a Native American standpoint, I certainly believe Dr. King embraced the Native cause. Along towards the end of his life he had broadened his vision considerably, encompassing those with the least who were most in need.” Gray continues, “I certainly believe he’d be sympathetic to the Native commitment to maintaining land and resources, regaining lost sovereignty, increasing self-determination and maintaining treaty rights. So I see Dr. King as a man of all seasons; a man for all people. He was one of many, many, many who helped make something that we’ll always remember and cherish, and from which much, indeed, can still be learned.”

I know that, for myself and others, there is still much to be learned from Hunter Gray and the history he’s lived and been a part of. At the very least, his motto for life is one worth taking to heart: “Keep fighting. Keep fighting. Never forget, and keep fighting.”
[End of article]
This article was printed from www.newwest.net at the following URL: http://www.newwest.net/index.php/city/article/lair_of_the_hunter_bear_keep_fighting/C108/L108/

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