Benet Luchion was on SCLC staff for several years, including during my summer in the south. He once saved me from being attacked by some men who were on the lookout for unaccompanied, somewhat tipsy girls who came in late after parties at the Atlanta SCOPE Orientation. Thirty years later, we ended up living in the same county, Santa Cruz, CA. When I interviewed him for this book, he said there were many such incidents as mine, and that his job was to keep all of the field workers safe, from summer students like me to leaders like Dr. King. Now in his late 70’s, Benet currently runs an organic farm and sells produce at a Farmers Market near Camden, Mississippi.
Copyright excerpt from my interview September 7, 2009:
Maria: Tell me about what you were doing in The Movement when we met?
Benet: Before we met in Atlanta, I was working in Gadsden AL. I headed the SCLC voting rights project there. Whatever titles people had, who I really was, was leader of the Human Security Movement.
In Atlanta (SCLC) we had to know what the security situation was in every community, where every one of our people were and how secure their situation was. I knew the name of every Klan member in the South and where they lived and what their modus operandi was – did they work in groups, alone, fire-bombing, car-jacking. I stayed on top of the security situation and went to or dispatched someone to any place where we knew people were not secure. We saved Hosea Williams, Dr. King, James Foreman as well as local leaders, field workers. If I had to get in my car and drive across Alabama to do it, then I did it. Whatever it took to keep our people safe.
We had a tight telephone network and handwritten lists, the lists had to be constantly updated because folks were always on the move. I had all those lists, kept them for years until I lost them all in a house fire in Berkeley in 1980.
The Human Security Movement is about the security of the people. That’s what my whole life is about, what I did back then, what I do now. Everybody talks about freedom and revolution but until the people are in a safe place with decent food, water, freedom from constant fear of attack – the rest doesn’t matter. I was totally about security. I was like a Mac truck driving that philosophy through the Movement. Before any other strategy you need to ask, are people hungry? Injured? Do they have trauma? I was the one who knew where everyone was all of the time.
Now I’m in the international Human Security Movement. I went to the Bejing Women’s Conference in 1994 and created a lobby on this issue to get this on the agenda of the United Nations. It took until 2000 but now there is a Human Security Commission. The basis of democracy is the security of the polis, the people. – Dr BJ Luchion D.Sci. Prof Emeritus (Ret)
© Maria Gitin 2010. Prior written permission required to quote from this manuscript.