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A Luta Continua

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At the end of June I will pack up the kid, the husband, the cat and a million memones and move to Chicago. I will leave behind treasured friends, valued comrades, and a few people, who will be, I'm sure, glad to see me go. As I reflect on m y past seven years in Ann Arbor my feelings are mixed, but overall the positive has outweighed the negative. Despite the racism, elitism, and artificiality which often permeate college towns like Ann Arbor, I have feit, for a brief time, a special sense of community here. And for those of you who helped to créate and nurture that sense of community, I want to say thankyou. We arrived in Ann Arbor when my son, Jason, was only six weeks old. He learned to crawl on the floor of the CAAS (Center for AfroAmerican and African Studies) lounge while attending Free South África Coordinating Committee meetings. Mostrecently, he and I celebrated our 7th and 34th birthdays at the Mother's Day Peace rally in West Park. The interim seven years here have been filled with too many meetings, rallies, picket lines and sit-ins to remember. In surveying the last seven years of Jason 's young life, I can see the evolution of the progressive political community we have been a part of and it makes me feel less cynical about how far we've come and where we're headed. Jason' s first playhouse was the original Apartheid shanty on the Diag. He heard Nelson Mandela's name so much while growing up that I think he must have thought Mándela was a member of our family who simply lived too far away to visiL Political prisoners, pólice brutaiity, racism, homelessness and homophobia are subjects that many parents go to great lengths to shelter their children from. While Peter and I have tried not to confront Jason with confusing issues he can't fully understand, we have, in order to justify our lives had some rather lengthy, and at times humorous, discussions with him about all of these things over the past seven years, discussions that often mirrored activities we were involved in. But more important than the reality of suffering and oppression, Ann Arbor has also given our son a deep sense of the importance of standing up in the face of injustice, and figh ting against it; of not looking the other way ; of making personal sacrifices for the ideas you believe in; of helping other people. And to the degree that Peter and I have been able to reinforce these values, we are proud, but that alone would not have been enough. We owe a great debt to people who have, directly and indirectly, through their examples of courage, principie and forti tude touched our lives and Jason ' s life and inspired us all to be better, stronger people. When I think of Ann Arbor I will always think of Al and Emma Wheeler, proud and determined Black folks who have been a fighting team for nearly 50 years and remain tireless and unrelenting to this day. I will remember the cultural vitality of Elise Bryant; the low-key and dogged persistence of Larry Fox; the generosity and compassion of Ruth and Andy Zwiefler; the fearless defiance of the women in Unity Organization; the long-term activism of Roderick Linzie; and the visión and hard work of Ted Sylvester and LaurieWechter who,through AGENDA, have given a greater focus and cohesión, to the local prpgressive movemfeht. I [will also, with great fqndnessv my extended UCAR family, past and present, for the innumerable gifts of faith they have given me, and for their having put up with me during many difficult times. Finally, I will remember those who have worked so hard and given so much to give birth to the Ella Baker-Nelson Mándela Center for Anti-Racist Education - Tracye Matthews, Pam Nadasen, Emery Smith, Kim Smith and Charles Moody. The Center is an important outgrowth of the anti-racist movement here and has served as a catalyst for dialogue and coalition-building as well as a space for reflection and re-assessment. It will hopefully continue to serve as a permanent resource for future generations of student and community activists who strive to make this campus and community a fairer and more humane place. Without Ann Arbor's progressive community, particularly the African American progressive community, my past seven years here would have been a lonely and isolating experience. The list of people is too long to name individually, but you know who you are. Thank you for making me proud to be a part of this community. I feel a special need, at this historical juncture, to celébrate the anti-racist and progressive work that has taken place in Ann Arbor and to applaud the people who have kept that work alive, because the integrity of our movement is now so heavily under assault. As ill-informed conservative ideologues in "blackface" run around the country belittling our accomplishments and maligning our efforts with pejorative labels, it is more important than ever that wherever we are we forge a greater sense of community and reaffirm our confidence in the importance of the political work we do. It is important that we continue to f orce the doors of the university to open even wider; that we not tolérate racism, sexism or homophobia anywhere in any form; that we push for a more equitable distribution of resources for the poor and the homeless; and that we lend moral and material support to our brothers and sisters fighting for self-determ ination in other parts of the world. From now on I will be struggling in tandem with you on another front, but will always be with you in spirit Please keep AGENDA and the Baker Mándela Center alive. They are powerf ui reservoirs of strength in this community. A Luta Continua.


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