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ISBN: 9781608445646
168 pages

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Excerpt from the Book

Introduction

I was gasping and choking and running as fast as I could from the police in full riot gear chasing us. I was terrified of falling behind. I knew the stragglers got it the worst. I wondered what country I was living in. Surely not the land of freedom and justice for all. Not the America of free speech and the right to assemble. But it was. It was 1968 in the United States of America, in my hometown,Chicago, during the Democratic National Convention.

As I ran for my life, I thought, “What’s a nice middle-class 21-yearold woman from Rogers Park doing running through the streets like a rat?”

When I was young, I watched TV shows like Father Knows Best and Gunsmoke and was proud in my belief that America offered tolerance,freedom and justice to all.

As I got older, the TV news showed angry white mobs blocking school entrances to blacks and unarmed peaceful civil rights demonstrators being brutalized by police wielding batons, fire hoses, and snarling dogs. The cameras rolled as anger and frustration erupted into riots in black communities in the major cities.

In my twenties, the news brought us unforgettable images of people—some of whom were forced to be there by the draft—get shot, napalmed, and killed in Vietnam. During those years, several of the leaders who spoke out for what they thought was right were assassinated. Among the most famous were John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Bobby Kennedy and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1971, the Ohio National Guard killed four peaceful student demonstrators at Kent State. The TV news carried the stories into our living rooms. I never understood why those of us who were exercising our constitutional right to protest were accused of being un-American. It seemed to me that the people who tried to silence us were un-American for denying us our right.

Violence, injustice and people’s inhumanity to one another were part of my daily life during those years and I was enraged by it. I had been lied to about America. It was not the land I grew up believing in. It did not live up to its values of tolerance, fairness and justice. Since I had been lied to about America, I wondered what else I had been lied to about. I took to the streets to exercise my right to protest the things I didn’t think were right. I threw out all the rules I had learned growing up and set out to find my own values and my own way. I was not alone in my search. Many thousands of us went on the journey together. Some of us, like me, made it through. Some of us, like my sister, didn’t.

When I went to the ’96-’68 Democratic Convention reunion in Chicago, a young labor organizer pointed out to the audience and said, “I have been talking to some of you out in the lobby, and I can tell you that your stories have not been told. You need to tell your stories.” So that is what I set out to do in this book—tell my sixties story as I remembered it.