NO LONGER AT EASE HERE
TRAPPED IN A HISTORY
“We returned to our places, these Kingdoms
But no longer at ease here …”
Journey of the Magi … T.S. Eliot
“….trapped in a history which they do not understand,
and until they understand it,
they cannot be released from it.”
The Fire Next Time …James Baldwin
“Black people will never gain equality in this country….. This is a hard-to-accept fact that all history verifies. We must acknowledge it, not as a sign of submission, but as an act of ultimate defiance.”
Faces at the Bottom of the Well …. Derrick Bell
“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged
Bird that cannot fly.”
This is a personal attempt to understand why I am who I am. It is also an attempt to understand my life as dominated by a single “moment” of time. That “moment” in 1968, soon after Dr. King’s assassination, came as I “promised” to devote my life to work against white racism. That solemn, joyful, tearful “moment” has been at the center of every major decision of my life since that day. Now, writing forty years later, I begin to believe what is not understandable. My life has been dominated by that “moment” even before the “moment” came to me. That I can never explain, but I believe it.
As I began this attempt it became clear that “who I am” is inextricably woven with the story of the organization for which I served as Founding Director for twenty-eight years, Community Change, Inc. It is also a hope that the story of the organization will be a reflection on its role in the anti-racist movement. To tell the story of the organization more fully it would be necessary to include names and tributes to many individuals who have been vital to that story. An attempt to include all would have certainly failed to include some. My uneasy solution has been to include specific names only when they are so integral to the story that to eliminate them would be to change the story. That judgment is also a dangerously personal one, for which I can only ask forgiveness for any offense.
by Horace Seldon
Written over periods when memory demanded it.
THIS COPY UPDATED APRIL 2013
Often when I have read about the life of some other person, I have found myself resisting what seems to be too much attention given to the childhood and family. “Get on with the real story”, has often been the impatience with which I begin the reading. Yet, now attempting to tell something about my own life, I realize that I must begin with family. That is, after all, where we all start.
The life which my family gave me was one of “ease”; never did I think of us as wealthy, and by any standard we were not. Not wealthy, but much “at ease”. If there were worries about financial stability, they were not shared with me. Most of what I wanted came with careful planning. Life at home, life in the world, was one of projected ease. That “ease” was based in financial stability, but extended also to views of the world. I was sheltered from social issues of disparities and discrimination in the body politic, or even from the body politic itself.
The family into which I was born on November 1,1923 was composed of my father, Newman Henry Seldon, 40; mother, Alice May Foss Seldon, 39, two sisters and a brother. Sisters, Beatrice and Lucile, were respectively 15, and 14, at the time of my birth; Richard, was 4. Another son, Foss, had died in 1915, not then two years old.
That my sisters were so much older became significant at several points later, but my first remembrance of that fact was their telling of coming home from school to “find me in a drawer”, that November 1st. A bureau drawer as my first crib belies what was really a comfortably furnished home.
The difference in age with my sisters leads me to a remembrance from my second year in High School, when Miss Barkley, who taught French, was sure that I had not studied my first lesson. We were supposed to know how to tell Miss Barkley, in French, how many brothers and sisters we had, and the age of each. She would not accept my answers, sure that I had failed to learn the French numbers! She made me report after school, when I finally convinced her that I did indeed have sisters so much older.
With older sisters, I watched them grow into adulthood and separate lives. Beatrice, the oldest, worked in a downtown drug store, and that pleased me because sometimes after school my friends and I visited the store, where she served us ice cream sodas! Hers was a fairly “normal” life, growing in love, marrying Arthur Jenkins, giving birth to one daughter, living uneventfully until Arthur’s death, after which she was not happy. Lucile and I continued in relationship with her until her death, but the last years for Bea were difficult and troublesome for the three of us.