Comedian and peace activist Dick Gregory died recently and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quoted him in reference to the ’67 racial conflicts in Milwaukee:
“There is nothing in America that equals what happened here in Milwaukee,” Gregory said at a 2007 event marking the 40th anniversary of the marches. “When the rest of the country saw what was going on in Milwaukee, it realized that equality was not an Alabama problem, was not a Mississippi problem. This is an American problem.” MJ.S. 8-21-17,p. 4C
Comments from two current social activists who were students at Marquette:
One remembers the July 30th to August 2nd confrontation when the National Guard was called out and a curfew imposed on Milwaukee. He was working at Stouffer’s Restaurant and the restaurant had to close , so he and some friends found a bar that was open. Former Packer great and hall of famer Johnny Blood McNally was holding court. When asked about Curly Lambeau, McNally responded, “Asshole!” Six students found refuge at his Wauwatosa family home during the curfew. The MU student remembers supporting the marches later that month but not participating. Students cheered the marchers as they started their march across the bridge.
Another remembers protests in 1966 at the whites-only Eagles Club with a membership that included major politicians and judges. Protesters were met with taunts and Confederate flags. He said he was more of an observer than a protester on the marches. He remembers a young man screaming vile epithets at marchers near Kosciusko Park. “I went and stood in front of the man face to face. The man stopped his yelling.” The ‘observer’ commented that when people are part of a crowd they feel free to do and say awful things; when confronted individually they are embarrassed.
A question: Is racism still a dominant attitude in our country? Have we made any progress? Confederate flags, epithets screamed at protesters – the wave of hate even as transmitted by T.V. is difficult to escape. Maybe we should shift our concerns to the Packers; will they win the Super Bowl?
Dick Gregory wrote the Forward to Margaret Roszga’s book of poems, 200 Nights and one day. Gregory quoted a prayer from antiquity, Psalm 23:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow o death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
“This is America. That day was America. And I am blessed to have been there with these freedom fighters as victory was fought for and won.”
200 Nights and one day, Benu Press, p. viii, 2009.