Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Journey of Awakening – 47: A Memorable Town

New Year week 1978. Somehow, call it Linda’s miraculous recovery or sheer determination, our family, me, Linda, Eric, and Troy who was in our Student House in Chicago, all were in one place for about a week in Boston. We decided to take a family one day trip to Cape Cod, stopping at Plymouth Rock on the way.

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We drove all the way to Provincetown   Cape Cod from Above

January was definitely not the time to visit Cape Cod. And we were disappointed that we could not actually stand on Plymouth Rock which was several feet below us with a fence surrounding its enclosure. Troy’s only comment was “Is that it?”

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That was the extent of our family holiday before I headed back out on the Town Meeting circuit.

By the time I joined the team we were moving our base of operations to Richmond, Virginia. Assignments were a little saner for the two weeks we were in Virginia. We had more volunteers so could go out in teams of two. We had a couple of us stay back in Richmond phoning to set up the meetings and appointments so the rest of us could concentrate on scheduling and conducting the forums.


My Colleague Burna Dunn in front of Richmond ICA House

I remember one foray I and another volunteer made all the way out to the point where Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee connect. A little town nestled in a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The name is lost to memory. Let’s call it Jonesville.

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Many of the small mountain towns in SW Virginia were “Company Towns”

The only issue that seemed to be on the mind of the town leaders as we discussed scheduling their Town Meeting was that they were really disappointed that they could not get the participation of the black folks in the community in town affairs. I am sure they were well-intentioned sentiments. I couldn’t help wondering whether they realized how deep were the scars of more than two hundred years of slavery and being treated as less than human. We knew that whatever issues a town expressed on the surface, it was most difficult for the citizens to see with clarity the underlying contradictions that kept them from addressing their real situations.

Of course, one Town Meeting would not resolve all of the community issues. But we were often amazed at how much could be accomplished when people came together, left their entrenched beliefs at the door, and used appropriate methods aimed at building consensus.

I sometimes wonder if that little Virginia mountain town ever got it together.

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