Bob Moses: We were in Mississippi because we believed that we could help the people change their lives. They were starving. We stayed a while, and while we were there, we found out something about love and hate. We found out something about being crazy, and came up on daisies. These poems were written in the dark just to keep it away, or to welcome it, to refuse to be crazy, or to go ahead with it, to say something about the lonesome people sleeping around me, something simple about transcendence, about grace, holding hands, daisies, children, food and daisies for every one of the children.
Jane Stembridge was the go-to person for that first SNCC person, the one she decided in the end not to go to. She couldn't stomach the decision about (muffled). Jane was a student at Union Theological Seminary when the sit-ins broke out on February 1st, 1960, then two months later in April, she drove to (muffled) university, where Ella was pulling off the movement youth conference of the century, the one that gave birth to SNCC. When the conference was over, Jane of the South had agreed to be SNCC's first executive secretary. So, there she was, sitting at the SNCC desk, in the SCLC office, when I arrived in July of 1960 to do volunteer work for King. I had never heard of Ella Baker, but Ella thought that a decision about Byer should not paralyze the movement, and if the UAW wouldn't fund the conference if Byer was the keynote, it was okay to move along. Jane couldn't know it then, but the UAW would be back in synch with Byer after his march on Washington in 1963 and both Byer and the UAW would be out of synch with SNCC and the MFDP at Atlantic City in 1964. Fannie Lou said, "We all is tired." So Ella was probably right on back then in 1960. But though Jane missed Amzie, she did file a field report for him, and for that matter, any other movement person interested in field reports. Field report, Mississippi, 1961.
Pieces of cotton are caught in the weeds on the edge of the highway from Greenwood to (muffled). I was in the car on the edge of the highway on way from Greenwood to Greenville when we were caught and dumped like pieces of cotton in the weeds. Jimmy Travis was the driver, until he slumped over on me with that piece of a bullet in his neck. Randolph Blackwell was on the other side of me when that car went off the edge of the highway and we plunked down like pieces of cotton caught in the weeds. We had run into some unexploded ordinance from slavery and the Civil War. Their grease guns splayed thirteen bullet holes along the side of the car, just under the blown out windows. Glass was everywhere, but only Jimmy took a hit.
Jimmy Boy, don't cry. Please don't cry. I'll play a song for you, a song about the wind, a great wind moving in a high hill grass, a soft wind moving in the south. Jimmy Boy, don't cry. Please don't cry. I'll give my drum to you, my drum, I made of wind, a great wind, moving in a high hill grass, a strong wind, moving in the south, Jimmy Boy, don't cry. Please don't cry. I'll walk along with you. We'll walk to cedar wind, the green wind. Playing in the high hill grass, the clean wind, moving in the streets of the city. Jimmy Boy, don't cry. Please don't cry.
A great wind moving in a high hill grass, a strong wind moving in the south, a youth wind to dislodge the tectonic plates that shored the country up, in the aftermath of its slavery, its civil war, its Reconstruction.
To Ella, these young people had the courage where we failed, so she would work for them. Ella was, as Bernice says, a woman with a voice, and she must be heard, at times, she can be quite difficult; she bows to no man's word. Martin King (muffled), James Farmer, (muffled), talked to each other about Ella. Talk to Ella about the youth wind. It didn't matter. Ella created a space in which the energy of the youth wind moving in the south could coalesce and give birth. Hers was a lesson about organizing, true, but hers was also a lesson about power, about willpower, and its virtue, the capacity to surrender. Ella was a brilliant role model for this capacity to the youth of SNCC, she was always walking the walk at the moment she was talking the talk about this capacity. She had explored its more subtle manifestations, but no matter how large the experiences in which she devoted her personal self, she never failed to distinguish the two. In 1946, I was in the 5th grade at P.S. 90 in Harlem at 148th Street between at that time 7th and 8th Avenues. One of my teachers was Mrs. Stewart. She taught us to breathe from our stomachs and to recite a poem about Abu Ben Adhem. When Ella passed, a cadre of former SNCC workers gathered around her casket at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. I remembered that poem that Mrs. Stewart taught me in the 5th grade, and over the years, I had come to recognize Ella as a member of Ben Adhem's tribe. The cadre said it with me them. Please, if you feel it, say it with me now.
Abu Ben Adhem, may his tribe increase
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw within in the moonlight of his room,
An angel writing in a book of gold.
"What writest thou?", Ben Adhem said.
The vision slowly raised its head,
And with one look of sweet accord
Answered, "The name of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?"
"Nay, not so."
"I pray the, thou, put me down as one who loves his fellow man."
The angel wrote and vanished
The next night it appeared again,
With a great awakening light, to read the names which love of God had blessed
And lo, Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.