Tuesday, May 1, 2007

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

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

A Weather-led demo was held at JFK Airport to greet Nelson Rockefeller, at the end of Rockefeller’s tour of Latin America. Rockefeller’s tour had been greeted by militant anti-imperialist mass demos in every Latin American city that Rockefeller had visited. Around 100 of us, led by Mark and other former New York Regional SDS people who were now into Weather, showed up at the airport. But because the airport was so large and our numbers were so small, the demo felt like an ineffectual one.

A minor controversy developed at Queens College around the same time, over the Queens College Administration’s failure to allow a summer program for African-American youth to be run in a way that respected African-American self-determination rights. Nick, Frank, myself and some of the high school activists attempted to make links with Queens African-American activists who were working with Rev. Mitchell, by attending a Queens College campus demo that the African-American minister had organized. But nothing further developed in the way of an inter-racial alliance in Queens County. Nick continued to work with Frank’s Douglaston White Suburbs Organizing Project during the summer. But the other Weatherman activists in Queens that summer involved themselves in different forms of activism and I did not see Ted again until September 1969, after he had met with Vietnamese diplomats in Havana, Cuba.

In late July 1969, I dropped some LSD for the first time at Frank’s apartment, on the same day that the U.S. was landing a man on the moon for the first time, and it turned out to be the one bad trip I’ve ever had. I became paranoid about the rise of U.S. fascism and started hallucinating in relation to the other people in Frank’s apartment who were also tripping. While everyone else was lost in their own trips, I sneaked out of the apartment and started running down Bell Blvd. towards Northern Blvd. I then hopped on a bus on Northern Blvd. and asked a friendly African-American teenage guy to let me know when the bus reached Union St., so I would know when to get off the bus. He proved to be a reliable navigator for me.

When I got off the bus, in front of Flushing High School at Union St. and Northern Blvd., I then started walking towards my parents’ apartment. Still hallucinating, I rang the doorbell of a private house at random. A white high school woman with long hair, who was at home with her middle-aged parents, answered the door. Luckily, she and her parents just told me I was at the wrong address, but didn’t call the police to pick me up.

A few minutes later, however, I had come down from the initial flying period of my trip enough to be able to find my way home to my parents’ apartment. My sister began giving me glasses of orange juice to drink and my father looked at me with a worried expression, his worst fears about my interest in psychedelic drugs apparently being confirmed. The next day I felt quite orgasmic and began to enjoy the tripping sensation, and I stayed away from my Queens College classes while I came down from my “confrontation with death.” But I kept away from acid again, until a few years later.

I had begun my second term of the summer session at Queens College prior to my LSD trip, taking a sociology course on criminology that was taught by a right-wing professor who was a former probation officer, as well as a course on “Sociology of the Family.” The criminology professor was not used to having to defend his ideas from New Left intellectual criticism in class, or in discussion with students who weren’t intellectually submissive. So he felt very threatened by the debates I kept having with him in class. By the end of the summer session he seemed to regard me as a combination subversive-juvenile delinquent—because I defended the democratic rights and the human value of people who violated U.S. capitalist laws and ended up being incarcerated for property theft.

Enrolled in the “Sociology of the Family” course were about 50 conventionally middle-class Queens College white women students and 4 white men students. The instructor was a male white professor who taught sociology from a Talcott Parsons empiricist standpoint and was both anti-C.Wright Mills and anti-feminist. In order to challenge his assertion that the reality of contemporary male-female role differentiation within the nuclear family was that the “natural woman’s role” was to be a housewife while her husband worked, I got the professor to agree to let me invite a Women’s Liberation Movement activist to class to criticize Parsons’ model of family gender roles.

I then telephoned Robin Morgan, a former child actress on the I Remember Mama television show of the early 1950s, who was active in Radical Feminist Movement circles in the late 1960s. Morgan was uninterested in speaking to my class, but she suggested that I ask one of the women who worked with the Newsreel radical filmmakers group to speak to my class.