Monday, April 30, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 21: Weatherman Comes To Queens, 1969

Chapter 21: Weatherman Comes To Queens, 1969 (i)

In early July 1969, I heard from the Weatherman faction people, myself. A meeting was held at Frank’s 3-room apartment, which was located on top of a store on Bell Blvd. in Bayside, Queens. Frank had moved into this apartment after graduating from Columbia College in June 1967, in order to do full-time “White Suburbs” organizing for SDS, within the neighborhood he had grown up in: Douglaston Manor. Living alone, Frank single-handedly organized a white radical group composed of about 15 high school students, who were mostly women students from Little Neck and Douglaston Manor. Frank and his followers were able to open Movement organizing storefronts near the Douglaston Long Island Railroad station, just north of Northern Blvd. In Fall 1968, I had visited their original storefront once to lead a workshop on doing radical research and had visited it a second time to staff the phones, on the day when his group’s women high school anti-war activists leafleted outside their high schools.

The enthusiasm and idealism of some of the high school women that Frank had turned on to the Movement impressed me, as did Frank’s continued off-campus dedication and enthusiasm. My roommate Brian had also spent some time visiting Frank’s White Suburbs Organizing Project in Fall 1968 and he was also impressed by the core of high school activists Frank had recruited. One of the most dedicated of these activists was a Cardozo High School student named Erica, who lived with her parents in Little Neck. When she attempted to leaflet outside Cardozo H.S., in order to call for a student anti-war walk-out, she was roughed up by the cops. But the police harassment of her only hardened her steadfast commitment to the Movement.

One reason why Frank seemed to have such success in getting a White Suburbs Organizing group together was that he also turned his Bell Blvd. apartment into a kind of liberated, private space for his followers, who all felt somewhat repressed, as a result of still having to live with their parents in Douglaston Manor. Frank’s apartment became the place they could go to after school, in the evenings and on weekends, in order to listen to vinyl records, smoke grass and get away from their parents. Frank usually had an ample supply of marijuana and he generously shared it with those of his followers who came over to his apartment to have meetings, talk politics and listen to music in an atmosphere that was free of sexual harassment.

Besides Frank, me and his Douglaston Manor/Little Neck core of high school student activists, the post-National SDS Convention meeting in Bayside was attended by Dionne, Ted, Nick and a woman activist, new to the East Coast, named Heddy. Heddy had spent the previous year working with Tijerina’s movement for Chicano autonomy, self-determination and land rights in New Mexico. Although Heddy was older than Dionne, she seemed more militant and politically stronger. Heddy seemed to have committed her whole life to making the Revolution. Prior to the meeting, Ted joked about how he and Dionne had had to pretend that they were a married couple while searching for a Weatherman collective house to rent in Queens.

Nick began this meeting by slowly reading and interpreting the Weatherman Statement, for those of us who hadn’t been out at the National SDS Convention. The main thrust of the Weatherman Statement, according to Nick, was that, within the domestic colony of Afro-America, revolutionary armed struggle, led by the Black Panther Party, was likely to break out in the early 1970s; at the same time that more wars of national liberation against U.S. imperialism (like the inevitably victorious Vietnamese national liberation struggle) would occur. Within the “mother country” oppressor nation of “White Honky Amerika,” the task of white revolutionary communists like us was to build a United Front Against Imperialism that was mass-based among white working-class youth, which opposed all forms of racism, sexism, national oppression and capitalism, and which militantly fought for the cause of revolutionary world communism.

After Nick finished reading the Weatherman Statement, everyone in the room, including myself, agreed that it accurately described U.S. political reality at that time. We all agreed that we would play our part to build an off-campus revolutionary white working-class youth movement which would fight for communist revolution in “the white mother-country” at the same time Black Panther Party-led masses of Third World revolutionaries in the U.S. domestic colonies, and Third World revolutionary masses in Asia, Africa and Latin America continued to fight, by any means necessary, for national liberation. Dionne then talked some about the need to free political prisoners like Ahmed Evans, who had been unjustly jailed for an act of armed self-defense in Cleveland. And we finally discussed possible methods of recruiting masses of white working-class youth out in Queens to the U.S. revolution and possible ways to stimulate more mass anti-racist consciousness among white youth.

When the meeting ended, Nick, Ted and Dionne drove back to Manhattan in one car and Heddy drove me and some other activists in another car through Flushing, where I was dropped off at Union St. and Northern Blvd., in front of Flushing High School. In the car, I sat in the front seat next to Heddy. Heddy noted that she used to be into modern dance before she became a revolutionary activist and she talked about some of the experiences she had had while working with Tijerina in New Mexico. Although I felt Heddy was one of the earliest and most fully-liberated Movement women in the U.S. at this time, the high school women activists in Frank’s group felt she was “too masculine” and “too domineering” in relation to them, and felt she was out of touch with where most young women in Queens were still at politically.

1 comment:

Professor Howdy said...

Very good posting.
Thank you - Have a good day!!!