The Marc Steiner Show

06/06 Marc on 1968

"Where were you when…?"

Resurrection City, June 1968. Photo by Ollie Atkins.  See more.

 

I remember clearly where I was for all the horrible assassinations of the 1960’s.

 

I remember my quiet walk with Adrienne Cooper (who later died from a back alley abortion) around Stockbridge Bowl the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. We walked and reflected on the world we lived in light of that horrible event.

 

I remember two years later standing in line to view Malcolm X’s body as it lay in state in Harlem. I had taken a bus to New York as soon as I heard about the assassination.

 

I was living in the heart of the D.C. Ghetto, and pulling up to my apartment in my old VW bug when I heard the news on the radio that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I was in the heart of the city, our nation’s capital, and within hours the city was burning all around me. I walked through that rebellion in the wake of his death.

 

When Bobby Kennedy was killed I was living in a plywood shack between the U.S .Capital and the Washington Monument with thousands of others in a place called Resurrection City.

 

Resurrection City was an encampment of thousands of poor people-Black, White, Puerto Rican, Mexican American and American Indian. They came from mountain hollers, the rural south, Indian reservations, small mill towns and inner cities. The Poor People’s Campaign, one of King’s last acts before he was assassinated, was an amazing movement because of its racial unity and its class-consciousness. It was led and driven by the poor themselves. They marched on D.C. from a dozen routes from across the nation. They took over the mall, built the city out of plywood. We slept there, cooked our meals there, had meetings, studied, played and created theater. This movement went beyond notions of white power or the new slogan of Black power. This was the people’s power, the power of the poor united across color lines. There were many in both Black Nationalist and white conservative movements who despised the interracial power of this movement and many wealthy supporters of civil rights were put off by the class demands of this group. I think this march may have heralded the end of the civil rights movement. Right now the mainstream media is doing story after story about the magical, mad, terrifying and glorious year of 1968-but in all that reporting, almost nothing has been said about the Poor People’s Campaign. A notable exception is the public radio program Weekend America which did a great piece on Resurrection City as a part of their series This Weekend in 1968.  Click here to for their interviews and multimedia slideshow.

 

Bobby Kennedy was one of those who supported the idea of the poor marching on the capital. His death brought a pall over our encampment. His body passed us on the way to the Rotunda. The mourning was palpable, soulful and deep among the thousands who camped on the mall that summer.

 

It has been forty years since a politician like that captured the imagination of America. Bobby Kennedy was loved by all the communities camped out on the mall that summer and by working and middle class people across our country. You can’t help but ponder what America might have become had he become the President of the United States.

 

Do we have another running now like that? Do we?

 

What do you think?

-Marc

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Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner

The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.


Comments

  1. Sometimes fiction is truer than “news” or reportage. I once read a very interesting take on the two older living Kennedy brothers in a book, I believe, called American Tabloid by James Elroy. His politics are probably usually different than mine; but, his art/vision – I think at least in that case – is pretty dead on. I can’t speak as reverentially of the Kennedys as you speak of Robert Kennedy in your blog. I doubt his real support, politically, of the encampment other than at the time it was a thorn to the Johnson establishment; and, I think the reverence that has enveloped the Kennedy’s over the years has been and remains a show business artifact.
    I am glad to see that you have moved to WEAA; and, I hope you are doing well.

    Sincerely,
    Dave Nudel

  2. First off, let me address the question of where I was when. In June of ’68 I was a carefree 4 year old. I was living with my parents in an apartment complex where my dad was the “fix it” man and my mother showed apartments to prospective tenants in order to make the extra money required for a down payment on our first home. (you asked)

    Secondly, we don’t have politicians like that because we don’t have citizens like that either. Can you imagine poor people marching on Washington and camping out on the mall like that for an entire summer? I can’t. You would get more people standing in line for a few days to try out for American Idol than you would ever get to demonstrate for poor people. The only way you would get it to happen is if you could make it into a “reality” TV show.

    Our country is being entertained to death.

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