Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I worked my way out of two jobs, happily.

During the 50s and 60s I was active in the civil rights movement for African-Americans. In sermons, writing and conversation I stood for full freedom for all people, no matter what their race or creed. I became especially active in the 60s. A group of San Francisco clergy joined 500 others and were arrested in a sit-in at a Cadillac agency which did not hire any one but white men. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) supported the picketing and sit-ins.

The same group of Episcopal priests, the late Don Ganoung, Lane Barton, Barry Bloom and I joined other San Francisco Clergy flying to Selma, Alabama, in response to Martin Luther King’s appeal for church support after the brutal beating of marchers who attempted to go from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on a peaceful march for racial justice. Thousands of clergy and lay people from around the country came to Selma to participate in the march. Here is the Wikipedia selection about the marches.

The Selma to Montgomery marches were three marches in 1965 that marked the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement. They grew out of the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama, launched by local African-Americans who formed the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL). In 1963, the DCVL and organizers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began voter-registration work. When white resistance to Black voter registration proved intractable, the DCVL requested the assistance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to support voting rights.
The first march took place on March 7, 1965 — "Bloody Sunday" — when 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. The second march, the following Tuesday, resulted in 2,500 protesters turning around after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The third march started March 16. The marchers averaged 10 miles (16 km) a day along U.S. Route 80, known in Alabama as the "Jefferson Davis Highway". Protected by 2,000 soldiers of the U.S. Army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and many FBI agents and Federal Marshals, they arrived in Montgomery on March 24, and at the Alabama State Capitol on March 25.[1]

I was involved in the March 7, 1965 March. Barry Bloom and others went on the whole march.

After these events, I served on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP for a term. I spoke at many churches, was interviewed on radio and television.

Soon the Black Panthers and more radical groups grew into prominence. It became clear that the role of white people was seen by some as interfering in the business of African-Americans. But what was even clearer was that black people became more powerful and wanted to be in complete charge of running the future of the movement. That of course was entirely appropriate.

But it took a while for this to sink into my consciousness. I had seen myself as an activist. I was a little sad to realize it was better for black people to give the speeches and interviews and tell their stories of the struggle. So that was the first time I had worked my way out of a job.

The second time was after my involvement with the gay rights movement. In 1964 I was invited to a conference with ten clergy and ten LGBT men and women. We got to know each other as human beings, listened to our stories and walked in the woods, ate some meals and built trust. From that meeting came the founding of San Francisco’s Council on Religion and the Homosexual. A New Year’s party was  given as a fundraiser for CRH. The police invaded the costume ball. We clergy called a press conference denouncing the police action. At the trial of a few gay men who had been arrested at the ball, the judge dismissed the case and castigated the police for invading the ball. One of the results of those events was that police no longer invaded gay bars and harassed gay men on the streets.

Again I appeared on radio and televisions, as it was most unusual for a cleric to defend homosexuals. As time went on more and more gays and lesbians came out of the closet and spoke for themselves. Gradually the need for straight people to defend and speak for gay people became unnecessary. It was sad in a way to move out of the limelight and let others speak for themselves. But it was meet and right so to do.

Now I am involved in the peace movement. I write and stand vigil against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will be a long time before our voices will not be necessary against violence and for peace.


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