Afternoon Day 5 – Selma

In many ways Day 5 of the Solano College Civil Rights Travel Course is the most meaningful for me. In December of 1964 I turned eighteen – the magic number. Although black children had demonstrated in Birmingham and registered voters in projects in Mississippi and Alabama, I had to be an adult before I could volunteer to work with any of the major civil rights organizations. (I couldn’t vote. The voting age was still 21.) Selma occurred three months after I turned eighteen. I watched the marches there with different eyes than I had the civil rights events that went before.

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Sam Cook Was Right: A Change Is Gonna Come

I just finished an interview with Jessica Bays. She is a reporter for the “Clarksdale Press Reporter” in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Clarksdale is the Birthplace and World Capital of the Blues in the Mississippi Delta. Lots of Blues musicians have called it home including Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner and Muddy Waters.
So why is this interview important? In 1965 the Mississippi Delta was a hell for civil rights workers and the local people who worked with them.

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How to Know I’m on the Right Track

One thing I know is I need to consider “coincidences” as part of my writing process. Each time I’ve felt lost, like I’ve strayed from what I’m “supposed” to be doing with the book, I get a reminder. An event at the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference alerted me to the fact that I don’t “control” where the book goes.
As I mentioned earlier, an agent told me that my subject matter was passé. Then two of the guest speakers (writers both) told me my title, Rising to the Occasion was boring. I’d paid for this abuse! Their comment reminded me I was entering territory I knew nothing about and I’d better be open to new ideas about the book.
And then it happened. I was waiting in line at a book signing.

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“Put me in, Coach. I’m ready to play today.”

I wasn’t born yet! (And I don’t say that often anymore.) So, although my parents were baseball nuts, I don’t remember the names of the 1919 White Sox, called the Black Sox, because they threw the World Series. But I do remember the 1989 movie Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner’s character hears a voice in his cornfield demanding, “If you build it, he will come.” Passionate for the first time in his life, Costner builds a baseball field and waits. His reward is the arrival of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, a member of the Black Sox, back from the dead ready to play ball. Joe Jackson is joined by Eddie Cicotte, Buck Weaver, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, “Swede” Risberg and other once great players whose names no one knows. Costner’s sense of awe and his appreciation for the skill of the early players grows with the arrival of each one of them. (My awe as to how they arrived from the dead was not part of the movie.)

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