I often say to people that I fell into this job at NPQ with little journalism/publishing experience, but on the anniversary of President Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty, I remember that that is not so. In fact, when I was around fourteen, someone asked me to go to South Boston to pitch in with a group of young activists who were working out of the community action agency, ABCD. This was before busing and the changes in the neighborhood that have followed, so South Boston was very white and much of it was relatively poor.
The guys I was to work with were of South Boston—insanely witty, and just as tough. They wanted to put out a newsletter, and I was to help with the editing and with the art and layout. (As I remember, it was more the latter two.) I must confess that I hand lettered the headlines, and that they probably looked a little psychedelic—but what the first edition was about, was this: poverty cuts across racial divides, providing common cause for much of the country. It was a call for racial solidarity, basically, with poverty as a common focus.
Unfortunately, South Boston was not ready for the message, and after threats were received, ABCD (as I remember it) suggested that the activity cease. It has been a long time, but that is my memory.
That was my first experience with both a War on Poverty organization and being part of a publishing endeavor. Over the years, I have been involved with many similar groups, trying to get out an unpopular message in whatever ways possible. It has always been a risky business, but I think about those guys in South Boston —especially Mikey Glynn—often, remembering their chutzpah and brilliance. That spirit is why I am still here in this work.
Do you have similar memories of the moments that are still vividly keeping you in the work? Let us hear about it.