Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sylvia Woods and Angela Davis, and my connection to Civil Rights.

Check out this video of my friend and mentor Sylvia Woods. Sylvia Woods, was a leader in the labor movement. I was living in Chicago going to nursing school when I met her. In 1972 she was well into her 70s. Her pepper-gray hair, piercing eyes, and warm smile inspired me and to my great honor she became a mentor to me. With amazing love and patience she taught me about racism, and why I should care about it. Most of all she taught me that really loving means being willing to hold on to each other while you fight through your differences. That year, I joined the Medical Committee for Human Rights. One of our works aside from organizing health care workers, was serving at demonstrations as the medical support team. I was part of the team that rode the bus to Raleigh, North Carolina for a demonstration in support of the Wilmington Seven. A group of Black Ministers accused of setting fire to a White Church. Really?

Angela Davis was the keynote speaker. There were about 700 Black people and 7 white medical and nursing students, but few security. Since I was the least experienced nursing student, and well known to the organizer of the demonstration, I was asked to do security instead of medical coverage. My job at the age of 30 was to provide security for Angela Davis during her speech. It was clearly explained to me that if saw anyone with a weapon, that I was to put my body between the shooter and Angela.

The moment of  Angela's  speech arrived much to soon as I stood next to Angela at the podium, my eyes fixed on the crowd looking for a weapon. Klansmen in sheets and cones lined the streets leading up to the capital. There must have been 100 or more. I don't remember being scared I think I was just numb. What I remember most was thinking about the question, "Who are you willing to die for?"  At that moment, in my youthful idealism, I decided that there were two lives I would die to protect: Angela Davis and Sylvia Woods were the only two women on the planet whose lives I valued more than my own. They were the heroines of my youth and showed me how courage looked and sounded. It wasn't until 2005 the 25th anniversary of the Greensboro Massacre when I understood the danger I was in that day in Raleigh. But that is a story for another day.

No comments: