This Bright Light of Ours

My beloved husband Samuel Torres Jr

My beloved husband Samuel Torres Jr

SNCC Buddies Luke (Bob) Block, Maria Gitin and Charles (Chuck) Bonner 2005

SNCC Buddies Luke (Bob) Block, Maria Gitin and Charles (Chuck) Bonner 2005

During this time of reflection on anniversaries – some joyous like the March on Washington, some tragic and still infuriating, like the murder of the Sunday School girls in Birmingham, we pause to reflect on the people and friends who have made contributions to positive change, to moving forward not backward and to keeping the faith. Our eyes are wide open yet we still hold Martin’s Dream and our own to be possible. I want to share images of just handful of the dozens of amazing people who supported me on the journey to complete This Bright Light of Ours:Stories of the Voting Rights Fight, University of Alabama Press February 2014. http://www.thisbrightlightofours.com

My beloved friend and publicist, Joy Crawford-Washington and her mother, Jessie Crawford

My beloved friend and publicist, Joy Crawford-Washington and her mother, Jessie Crawford

Below (Left to right)

Ethel Brooks, Freedom Fighter (In Memorium)

Bettina Aptheker, author, advisor, friend

Lewis V Baldwin, author, advisor, friend & inspiration

Surprise Happy 65th Birthday to Samuel Torres Jr my beloved, my office manager and source of endless support

Charles R. Stephens (In Memorium) for years of co-training, diversity lessons and leadership

Bruce Hartford, Bay Area Civil Rights Veterans for fact-checking, resources and realism

Missing photo but not appreciation: Martha Jane Brazy, historian, for enthusiasm, editorial eye and noodging to make it even better

Ethel Brooks Freedom Fighter UnknownBaldwin_ S very young Charles S 2009

maria gitin bruce hartford_MG_3663_1

New This Bright Light book website coming soon: http://www.thisbrightlightofours.com

2014 Events – Save the Date

This Bright Light of Ours: A Celebration of Wilcox County Voting Rights, book reading, signing and reception, Camden, AL March 6, 2014.

This Bright Light of Ours, book reading, signing and reception, Temple Beth El, Aptos, CA February 20, 2014.

4th Annual Bay Area Social Justice Forum, moderator and panelist, The Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement,  Holy Names University, Oakland, February 15, 2014.

2013 Presentations

The Voice of Conscience: Civil Rights, Post Civil Rights and the Future Freedom Struggle Conference Plenary Speaker, Vanderbilt University, November 9, 2013.

The March on Washington@50 Symposium, moderator and panelist;  with Stanford University MLK Institute, Sojourn To The Past and Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA,  August 17, 2013.  

Freedom Stories of People in Struggle, presenter with Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, May 5, 2013.

Forging Alliances And Building Coalitions, California Social Studies Conferencepanelist, Burlingame, CA, March 9, 2013.

We will maintain this blog under a new name: www.wilcoxcountyfreedomfighters to preserve and add to the living history of the Wilcox County Freedom Fight.

These sites are not yet live – check back in early October.

 

The Wilcox County Freedom Fight Comes to Life Again

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters Selma Jubilee 2010Mary Alice Robinson (NCNW Banner), Phillip Young (Freedom Banner), Jessie Crawford, Maria Gitin, Joy Crawford-Washington, Robert Powell (Freedom Banner), Alma King (NCNW Banner)

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters Selma Jubilee 2010
Mary Alice Robinson (NCNW Banner), Phillip Young (Freedom Banner), Jessie Crawford, Maria Gitin, Joy Crawford-Washington, Robert Powell (Freedom Banner), Alma King (NCNW Banner)

Thanks again to all who contributed, assisted and supported the project of recreating the summer of 1965 in Wilcox County Civil Rights History for publication as This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Wilcox County Freedom Fight, forward by Lewis V. Baldwin, to be published by the University of Alabama Press www.uapress.ua.edu in 2014. Were you working for Freedom in the 1960-70’s in Wilcox County? Leave your story in the comment field. Thank you!

Happy New Year as we Continuamos la Lucha – We continue the struggle!

Civil Rights Veterans Maria Gitin & Betty Anderson

Civil Rights Veterans Maria Gitin & Betty Anderson

March 7, 2010 Jubilee and reunion with Robert Powell, Camden Academy student leader:

Reunion of Wilcox County field workers Robert Powell & Maria Gitin

Reunion of Wilcox County field workers Robert Powell & Maria Gitin

Our reunion captured national attention that day. Next year (2014) we plan to walk over the bridge together again. Robert has stayed in touch with his high school friends and with all who support the Freedom Fight.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-03-07-selma_N.htm

My Heart is Filled With Gratitude

Many generous folks contributed over the past seven years to This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, a memoir and collection of true stories from the last large integrated voter registration drive during the Freedom Summer of 1965.

Fifty-five courageous individuals entrusted me with their stories of living in a violent, racist community while fighting for their voting rights in Wilcox County, Alabama. My beloved SNCC friends, Charles “Chuck” Bonner and Luke “Bob” Block (https://thislittlelight1965.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/img327.jpg) kept me honest as I recreated our teenage civil rights work and play. Wilcox County community leaders opened doors, answered endless questions and become dear friends including: W. Kate Charley, Sheryl Threadgill, Alma King, and John Matthews. Civil Rights photographer Bob Fitch (http://www.bobfitchphoto.com/) shared historic images that enrich the work immensely.

For generous encouragement, and expert counsel over the years, huge appreciation goes to brilliant author-scholar, Lewis V. Baldwin. (www.amazon.com) For consistent and accurate fact checking, terminology, and political theory, my hero is Bruce Hartford, lay historian and web manager for the national Civil Rights Veterans website (www.crmvet.org). Scott E. Kirkland, researcher and curator of the Museum of History in Mobile, AL, played a vital role in the placement of this book, as a champion for an accurate portrayal of the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project, designed and spearheaded by civil rights hero, Hosea Williams.

Author-activist Bettina Aptheker, the late James Houston, and Benet Luchion provided early encouragement. Developmental editor Cassandra Shaylor helped shape the book for interest. Historian Martha Jane Brazy of University of South Alabama enthusiastically embraced the work during its final year, generously offering me graduate student level attention. Willy Siegal Leventhal’s unending fight for recognition of the SCOPE (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCOPE_Project) project was and is an inspiration.

Thanks to my beloved cousin, Jeanne Hanks, and my friend, Debbie Kogan, for empathetic listening during my years of obsessing about this project. Deep appreciation goes to my publicist, Joy Crawford-Washington of BGC Communications, for tireless support and warm friendship. To my yoga teacher, Amey Matthews for teaching me flexibility and strength are not opposites. And to Lauren Mari-Navarro for insights and resources. To Joan for fun & friendship.

Photo by Charley Hatfield, Aptos, CA

My husband, Samuel Torres Jr., offered me freedom to pursue the project, frequent and much-needed critiques, archival research, copyright management, proof-reading, tough talk and tender love, and took great photos. I can never thank him enough, but I am working on it!

Thank you all! Have a great Thanksgiving!  And Keep on Keepin’ On! – We have a long ways to go to achieve real racial and economic justice in the world!

The book has been retitled: This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, and will be published by University of Alabama Press in January 2014. Speaking engagements and book-signings are being scheduled now. Please contact: Joy Crawford-Washington, bgccommunications@gmail.com for more information.

Stories from a Teenage Civil Rights Worker

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters in Mobile

Wilcox County Freedom Fighters James Anderson, Sim Pettway, Rosetta Anderson, Maria Gitin and Joy Crawford-Washington after Maria’s presentation at University of South Alabama Tuesday evening. Living history was enjoyed by students, faculty and community members. Thank you Dr. Martha Jane Brazy and Joy Crawford-Washington!

Fox News 10 Mobile & Montgomery news anchor Eric Reynolds interviewed Maria and shared part of her story March 8, 2102

http://www.fox10tv.com/dpp/news/alabama/the-interview-maria-gitin

“Great interview Maria. You were wonderful!” – Charles Bonner, SNCC

Exciting News: Wilcox County Voting Rights Book Rejected!

Not everyone might think this is good news, but I do. After waiting 11 months to hear from New South Books in Montgomery Alabama, I received this message Jun 22, 2011, at 10:17 AM,

Dear Maria Gitin,

NewSouth Books reviewed your manuscript, and I regret that we will not be able to accept This Little Light of Mine. We thought it was well written and historically valuable, but we just can’t fit it into our publishing lineup at this time. Thanks so much for contacting us, and best of luck.

Sincerely,Noelle Matteson, Editorial Assistant, NewSouth Books

“Well written and historically valuable” sound good to me!

Images from 1965

I am grateful to all my Civil Rights Veteran buddies especially the Wilcox County Freedom Fighters, Alabama history buffs and friends of good literature who have helped bring this collection of stories of the Voting Rights Movement this far on its journey to publication. Just as we sang back in the day, we gotta keep on walkin’, keep on talkin’  – I have to keep on keepin’ on until this book lands with the right publisher. More than 50 people I interviewed, all my friends and dear ones are with me on this journey. Thank you for your support, ideas and comments.

PS As of March 2012,  the book was completely revised with the assistance of  developmental editor, Cassandra Shaylor. Now re-titled This Bright Light of Ours to reflect the amazing collective effort that has gone into this project, the new book includes contextual history in addition to stories and photographs. Prior to submitting it elsewhere, the entire mss was requested by University of Alabama Press which has scheduled publication for early 2014.  This amazing accomplishment is due primarily to the following: the courageous activists of Wilcox County Alabama, Joy Crawford-Washington – publicist extraordinaire of Mobile AL, professor Martha Jane Brazy of University of South Alabama and Scott E. Kirkland, researcher and curator of the Mobile Museum of History. At University of Alabama Press, Editor in Chief Dan Waterman and Acquisitions Editor Donna Cox-Baker are wise and courageous risk-takers dedicated to reclaiming the full history of Alabama. Their dedication, enthusiasm, vision and commitment has made this pending publication possible.

Please keep your comments coming and post them here. They really help!