Hunter Gray / Hunter Bear - Organizer
[Mi'kmaq/St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk]
AT OUR FAR UP HOME IN EASTERN IDAHO
CONTEMPORARY PHOTO BY THOMAS GRAY SALTER
LABOR, EDUCATION AND CIVIL RIGHTS [A COLLOQUY] HUNTER GRAY/HUNTER BEAR MARCH 25 2008 - COMMENTS, ADDITIONS
I suppose two of the silver linings that have come out of the Rev. Wright situation are,  It should now be clear to just about everyone that Obama is a Christian; and,  It enabled Obama to give a great speech -- and spark constructive discussion well beyond even this country. [I hear this from people who live abroad.]
My own feeling is that most younger people -- say, under 40 at least -- are considerably different and far more open than some -- some -- of their elders when it comes to racial matters and social theology -- even if the latter is sometimes tagged "liberation theology". And even many "older" people aren't that hung up on those issues. I had to personally grin the other day when "somewhat older" Chris Matthews [MSNBC] "pled guilty" [as he put it] to being a "cafeteria Catholic."
Maybe I'm being overly sanguine, but I somehow think these Fox-mediamade-
type-issues will fade for most Democratic voters, most Independents, and even for some hardshell Republicans. Those people who continue to fret and stew about these kinds of things would probably go to McCain anyway. In a toss-up, some Demos et al. may go initially to Hillary -- but it's clear her chances of getting the nomination are dimming daily.
The real issues and the need for resolution are becoming more urgent, day by day. McCain strikes me as genuinely old and with little creativity. I don't fault his inherent decency and personal courage but I really believe his lack of a realistic agenda on many fronts will soon become increasingly apparent.
One thing that troubles me much is the apparent inability -- Hell, failure -- of much of organized labor to run solid education programs for members and their families regarding racism and related matters.
Hunter [Hunter Gray] UAW, and a union member [various unions] since I was literally a kid.
When you say,
One thing that troubles me much is the apparent inability -- Hell, failure -- of much of organized labor to run solid education programs for members and their families re racism and related matters.
I heartily agree with you--and would add their apparent inability to defend their members very well (and of course the two are related!
Actually, the AFL-CIO did run such programs under Civil Rights Department head Don Slaiman in the '60s and someone else (whose name I've forgotten) in the '70s. Slaiman held training seminars and conferences all over the country for union members and leaders as he never tired of telling everyone he met. It took a long time to turn that big AFL-CIO ship around, but when they finally did, the AFL-CIO galloped as hard as it could in the right direction at least for a while when I interacted with them.Steven F. McNichols268 Bush Street, #3602San Francisco, CA 94104-3503
[And see http://www.hunterbear.org/salt2.htm
I didn't know George Guernsey, so can't
comment. Don Slaiman was a close associate of the
late Max Shachtman and notorious for sharing his Trotskyist hostility to anything that wasn't
MEMORIES: AFL-CIO CONCERNS / OUR SUCCESSES [HUNTER BEAR MARCH 25 2008]
Thanks, David, for your Shachtman/Slaiman note.
Guernsey, I should add, was George -- not Ed. I realized my error very soon
after I hurriedly wrote my missive and sent it off.] All of this, btw, is
now a bit feathered out and finessed and a new web page at
Although this "red tagging" could be occasionally galling, I've always just kept going ahead. In Mississippi, the late Claude Ramsey, the very long time President of Mississippi AFL-CIO, was a good friend and remained so for many years indeed until his passing. I always found most of the labor people everywhere just fine generally.
The North Carolina AFL-CIO was friendly, but there was an interesting effort to derail that. We had a large and historic multi-county civil rights and union labor conference scheduled for early March 1965 [in rural Bertie County, a setting described by a North Carolina state official as being somewhere in the 1700s.] Sprinkled throughout our hard fought SCEF-sponsored project setting -- the Northeastern Blackbelt -- were a number of potential union targets, the biggest by far being the JP Stevens Textile outfit at Roanoke Rapids in Halifax County. Among other things, we wanted to sow union seeds and, to that end, I contacted Mr Barbee, President of the state AFL-CIO, asking if we could get substantial quantities of union materials. He was delighted, readily agreed.
When I arrived at his office at Raleigh, Brother Barbee had several large boxes of union publications ready. He greeted me cordially -- but then -- then -- I saw a Cloud standing in the corner. He was a man around 50, dressed in a kind of not-spiffy suit, and he had the weathered face and mien of an older union official. He stepped forward, giving his name. President Barbee half-watched, still finding a few additional things for me.
"So you're with the SCEF," the Cloud said in a not exactly friendly tone.
"I am," said I -- and waited.
"Dombrowski still heading your outfit?" he asked.
"Sure is," said I. [Jim Dombrowski, New Orleans, was SCEF Executive Director. About a year before, when I was the featured speaker on the Southern struggle at a large multi-local [and not surprisingly most successful] gathering sponsored by the Arizona Mine-Mill Council, I'd been greeted warmly at the door by International Rep. Charles Wilson, a white Southerner [who had been at one point an International Vice-President of IUMMSW.] One of the first things he asked me was, "How's Jim?" They were old friends.
But this was not that.
"Jim's a very good friend of mine," said I. "And he always backs me up."
The Cloud's eyes narrowed. "He used to be with the CIO," he said, And then, in terse fashion, continued. "But he left us. Left us for the Wallace thing."
Confused for a split second, I could only connect "Wallace" with George Wallace -- who had much arch-seg support among our antagonists in the Blackbelt. But then I understood.
"Jim's a damn good friend of mine," I repeated. "And in 1948, I was 14 and starting my sophomore year at Flagstaff High, back in Arizona." [For younger readers, the reference point was the Henry Wallace Progressive Party campaign which ran counter to the CIO's "center/right" endorsement of Harry Truman.]
There was a lengthy pause. Suddenly the guy looked very tired. "That was a long time ago, I guess" said he. "For both of us." He smiled, shook hands, and finished with "Good luck". Brother Barbee looked at me, grinning, shrugged almost imperceptibly. With his help, I carried the boxes out to my vehicle.
Our Blackbelt Conference was a signal success: 1,043 people, mostly Black, some Indians, and a few whites -- from fourteen counties. Great array of speakers, with Ella Baker giving the keynote. Nigel Hampton of the Chemical Workers, with whom I still remain in contact, represented Labor; Clyde Appleton [currently on our BWB and Sycamore lists], sang and led protest songs. I did an organizing workshop, J.V. Henry met with the youth, and there were many other speakers. Started at mid-morn and went far into the night. Every piece of literature went out.
And we kept going.
It came a few years later, but via the changes wrought by our Movement, the J.P. Stevens Textile Mill at Roanoke Rapids was organized -- Blacks, Indians, whites -- and the great labor film, Norma Rae, immortalizing that success, was seen across the land.
Got to Keep Fighting -- Always and Forever.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]