Into the Unknown

In April of 1965 I knew:

  • I was going somewhere in the Deep South to register black voters.
  • I would be part of a group of students from the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford, Modesto Community College and Santa Rosa Community College.  If possible, I would be assigned to a voter project with them.  SCLC used college campuses as an organizational tool.  I knew none of these people.
  • I had a reading list, a packing list, and a statement of the money I needed.  And I had a little more money than I had to have.
  • The  project would last ten weeks.
  • People had been abused and had died doing what I was about to do.
  • I had a safe place to come home to.
  • I was compelled and inspired to go no matter what.

What I didn’t know:  

  • What the training entailed or who would be sponsoring it other than the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
  • Where I would sleep and what I would eat or where my next meal would come from.
  • How I would get home.
  • Who I could trust – southern sheriffs weren’t big on out list of trustworthy people.
  • How molasses-slow the southern culture was.
  • How little direction there would be once we got to our communities.
  • The toll southern heat and humidity would take on my emotional, physical and mental state – not to mention my complexion.  When I came home my dad said my skin looked like the Guatemala country side.
  • How I would respond to stark fear, exhaustion, and a different culture

My father had a perfect way of saying it.  I was flying “on a wing and a prayer.”

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