Our life settled into a comfortable rhythm. We were active in our alumni club and spent a considerable amount of time raising money for the college and encouraging young people to stay in school. We also became politically active because Chicago was Mayor Daley's town and politics was the way to get things done.
We supported King when he came to Chicago, and sat up the night he was killed watching parts of the city burn. Could not understand the burning of the businesses that supported our community. It was a very terrifying, violent time. It was frightening because no one could predict what would happen next, like the time I was entangled in one of the marches with King and thought I would be killed by the angry protesters.
We were shot at twice during the 60s. The scariest one was the time we were driving with the boys to see my husband's family in Louisiana. There were no hotels we could stay at along the way. The interstate system wasn't completed so much of the trip was on two lane roads. We would pull into the woods to eat the food we had packed, to take naps, or to relieve ourselves as it was a very long trip with few facilities available for Blacks. A truck load of white guys saw us in Mississippi and they had a truck load of rifles which they started using on us. Luckily I was napping under the steering wheel and took off immediately, driving over 100 mph. We did manage to escape. It happened again in Cairo, Illinois so it wasn't just the South. We called the North, up South.
Sometimes, a neighbor would light up a grill and other neighbors would rush into their homes to gather meat for an impromptu, communal bar-b-que. On one of those occasions when we went to get our meat, I looked out our front window before we returned, and saw an army car parked in front of the neighbor's home and two soldiers walking up to their front door.
"No." I screamed. I knew immediately what they would say. Our neighbor's son, Richard, the favorite child of the neighborhood, was killed in Vietnam. We had a funeral to plan.
All of a sudden Richard's father ran wailing out of his house. The men in the neighborhood chased and caught him. A loud shriek from the house sent the women rushing to comfort his mother. Waiting with his parents for his body to be returned was difficult and agonizing. To honor Richard we put flags in our yards and became anti-war zealots.
One poignant memory of the 60s involved a visit we made to see a neighbor who was confined at a mental institution. While we were visiting, I was surprised to see a friend from my high school dance class pirouetting down the hallway. We were startled and taken aback when we saw each other, asking each other why was she in this place.
An older, wise woman, who was quietly rocking in a rocking chair and was also a patient, glanced at us and made a pronouncement I've never forgotten.
"Well," she declared. "Like I've always said. You never know who you'll meet in the crazy house."
What is you most memorable moment of the '60s?
Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through.
~R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience