A college student from Michigan finds her calling and her voice during the Mississippi Summer Project.

Part 3 – New Orleans

hands-on-the-freedom-plowGil Moses and John O’Neal decided that Mississippi was so hard, so harsh and unrelenting that we would probably do better basing the theater in New Orleans and touring into Mississippi. However, the worst incident I experienced personally took place in New Orleans. We had two apartments in a building on Burgundy Street (Bur-GUN-dy, as black people say). SNCC people would come in and use the apartments for rest and relaxation days. On this weekend, there were a bunch of SNCC folk in town, and two SNCC photographers went across the street to a little store to get cigarettes. There was a shoeshine stand directly opposite that the police used. Watching from one of the apartment balconies overlooking the street, I saw the two photographers go over to the corner store and come back out, but they never came up the stairs to the apartment. I thought, “Oh, God, something has happened!” So I walked downstairs. As I walked out the door, a cop pulled his gun out and put it to my head, saying, “If you take one more step, I will blow your effing brains out.” You pay attention to something like that.
I thought, “Oh God, this is it.” I could see the photographers in the back of the police car that was pulled up on the curb under the balcony. I just stood there. I couldn’t move. I’ve never been so frightened in my life. I remember thinking I hope I don’t pee on myself out here. I prayed. I hope I don’t die right here on this street. After a few terrifying minutes, other people from the Free Southern Theater came downstairs and the cop let me go.

(Excerpted from Hands on the Freedom Plow, Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC, University of Illinois Press 2010)

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