People Participating = Hope

A major feeling of those first months was expressed in a dream one long night of my soul. I was a “gladiator”, in a huge colosseum, being readied to meet lions. The stands were full of people who seemed to be cheering, who seemed to want me to prevail in the battle to come. But very few of those shouting, “cheering”, were coming down from the stands to join me in the field. The dream was a dangerous one, tempting me to a martyr-like complex. I believe I avoided that temptation, but the dream was a pleading, hoping call for others to become involved. It was a lonely time, for one who found few places to be “at ease”. I needed the sustaining hope which then came from those who did join the fray.

Among those earliest to “join the fray” as cogs in the Community Change wheel, it is important to mention four especially: Erna Ballantine (now Bryant), Barbara Dawson, Rick Janey, and John Butler. Erna is a black woman, then Chair of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and later of the Black Ecumenical Commission, one of the few active Black Republicans, who actually ran for State Treasurer at one time. Barbara Dawson, is a black woman, who had been blinded in an automobile accident, and was active in Roxbury’s Freedom House, a multi-service center. Rick Janey is a black man, employed then at IBM, and later he became CCI’s computer guru. John Butler is a white man, active at the time of coming to CCI in personnel at Harvard University. Each of the four served at various times as President of the CCI Board.

A very early statement of the purpose of Community Change indicated that it was a response to “(1) a recognition that the racial problems of this country have been caused and perpetuated by attitudes and institutional structures created by white people, and (2) the strong motivation of many people who want to see constructive change and yet who often feel powerless to effect change.”

It was those people who ”wanted to see change”, but “who felt powerless to effect change” who were the real first supporters of the organization, who sought it out for hope of finding help in the struggle for change. These were the people who, learning together, forged, refined, and found solidarity in common purpose.

The solidarity of our little organization was questioned at one point, when some who had worked with us decided to create an alternative group to combat racism. Much of that dissatisfaction centered in a feeling that I was not “radical” enough in my approach, though that difference was not always clearly defined for me. The exact year is now uncertain to me. There were four people who we considered “staff”, though pay was hardly enough to merit that designation. I knew there was disagreement, but had not measured its depth. Two members of our CCI Board approached me, independently of each other, to say that they perceived there was a planned “take-over”, and that I was to be removed as Director. At a Board meeting I made it clear that I expected to be affirmed as Director, that others were invited to remain on “staff”, but they must know that I was Director. In Executive session, the Board sustained me. Only one of the others remained. Another three left, created a new anti-racism organization, which did not last long.

That division made me think in long, hard days about whether or not to persist.
The “epiphany” experience which had set me on the road would not allow the option of

After internal conflict, I gave attention to what was becoming clear to me with a new focus. A new intensity of the recognition that the racial problems of the country had been caused and are perpetuated by white people, became the seed-bed in which James Baldwin’s insight into history was to direct my life. “Had been caused by” demanded an examination of history.

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