August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The long road west

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

When the news was announced that Barack Obama had won, that the United States had elected a black President, my mind sped back to Natchitoches, Louisiana. The year was 1970 and my friend Mary, with her flaming red hair, had just fallen in love with a lean, tall and good looking black college student named Greg. On campus at Northwestern State University, popular with farmers and cow milkers, Mary and Greg had tomatoes and eggs thrown at them when they walked hand in hand on campus. More violence was threatened.

As for me, the Ku Klux Klan, I was told by a person attending their meetings, had placed me on their hit list to be killed. I laughed when my friend told me, because my small efforts were only to gather food for poor families. In fact, usually just one friend, my friend Effie who lived alone with her children in the country. She struggled with empty cupboards in the kitchen, walking and limping long distances to work, while her children had rocks thrown at them walking home from the school bus.

I had also helped organize race unity picnics, a cerebral splitting event for racists in the south.
Still, I couldn’t imagine I had done anything significant enough to be placed on a hit list. As college students, we were all young, and never believed that any harm could touch us. Still the three of us, Mary, Greg and I fled to Phoenix, Arizona, where tolerance awaited us. Mary and I drove out in her old blue convertible and rented an apartment downtown. I painted houses for the summer and returned to graduate in the fall. I knew somehow I would make it back to the west.

What I could have never imagined is that I would be living here in the west and witness, in my lifetime, the election of an African American as President of the United States.
Wherever you are, Mary and Greg, and my dear friend Effie and her children, and all those others at those race unity picnics in Natchitoches, Louisiana, let’s celebrate a road well traveled.

Still, it is with caution that I write these words. Neither partisan politics nor US politicians have proved to be America's healing salve or strong point. This is new territory.
There remains the question of whether Bush and Cheney will be charged with war crimes, including torture and other violations of the Geneva Conventions.
There is no act that can bring back the dead -- the women, children, soldiers and innocents -- killed in Iraq. There is no one that can erase the torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and secret cells around the world. There is no one that can give children in Iraq, or soldiers, the arms and legs blown off in Bush's fraudulent war.
There remains to be seen what role global corporations, especially war contractors and those seizing Indigenous Peoples lands and resources, will play in the future.
And, there's also another question: What happened to that $700 billion?
The big question is, what will happen now.

Photo: A house in Natchitoches, La., photographed in 1940, very similar to the home of my friend Effie in Natchitoches in 1970. Photo credit: Bound for Glory photo exhibit.

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