Friday, November 26, 2010

The Making of an Activist

What can I say? I’ve neglected my “fun blog’ since the first post. I’d begun to wonder if I’d bitten off more than I could chew in the blogging, social media activist world in addition to writing my own memoirs and a short story.  My memoir avoids disclosing too much detail about my childhood for a couple of reasons; it’s difficult to retell the painful, chaotic parts without “outing” family members’ mistakes to the whole world. I don’t feel that would be fair to the adults in my life, most of who have learned from their mistakes and have reconciled any differences. Additionally the intention of my memoir is to bring into light the day to day realities experienced by women who live with problems like addiction and abusive relationships and I want put the focus on that time of my life where I was enmeshed in that world.
Although there are aspects of my childhood that contributed to my poor decision making later in life, there are probably more influences and events that provided me with the resiliency, problem solving skills and “Yankee ingenuity” which helped me to cope with, and eventually overcome, the challenges I’ve faced in my adult life. I also learned about equality, compassion and social justice which would later be influential in my career and my life’s work.
My parents taught me early on about poverty and economic disparity. We took a lot of road trips in those days, driving and camping in different parts of the East coast, Midwest and Canada. My father would take the time to explore different sections of cities, town and rural areas and would point out the disparities in the quality of life based on economic status and race. My parents took us to protests, marches and rallies speaking out against segregation, the war and unfair housing practices. I was inspired and thrilled by the energy and passion of these events, the people and their demands for Justice. By the time I was 8 I was contemplating going into politics, certain I could make a difference. I learned a tough lesson that year when both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr were assassinated. I learned that it can be dangerous to challenge the status quo. I also watched the news reports of the protests in Selma, Alabama and remember seeing a young Black girl about my age being sprayed with a fire hose and hurled down the street, her white dress flying up and revealing her underwear. In 8 or 9 year old terms’ having one’s underwear revealed represents the worst kind of humiliation. I couldn’t fathom that grown men, policemen, would do such a horrible thing to a child. I knew then that even though you may pay with your life (or having your panties exposed!) the struggle for Justice was not going to go away and it was a battle that needed warriors.
In 5th grade I had a wonderful, inspirational Social Studies teacher, Mrs. S. She inspired us students to get involved socially and politically. We celebrated the first Earth Day with a series of lessons on the Environment, and on the actual day we took to the playground with handmade signs and sidewalk chalk to draw pictures and messages on the blacktop. She also taught us about the “Vote 18 campaign” citing the injustice of drafting young men into war without giving them the right to participate in the political decision making process. Mrs. S was one of the most influential teachers in my life, I have no idea where she is now, or if she’s even still alive, but I think of her often and thank her for her passion and dedication and the personal attention she gave to a troubled little girl who was struggling with the injustices of the world.
Wherever you are Mrs. S, your legacy lives on.
©2010 Jennifer Hazard