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A Southern Boy: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

STORYCENTER Blog

We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.

A Southern Boy: All Together Now Civil and Human Rights – by Arlene Goldbard

Ary Smith

“I'm a Southern boy. I was born in Alabama. My dad was from Mississippi. This was in the Twenties and Thirties, and I grew up in an extremely segregated society. I ended up clearly outside—far beyond—the racial rage I was raised in as a child. I gave that up. There was something obscene about it.”

All Together Now is making news. StoryCenter’s series of free civil and human rights workshops brings generations together to learn from each other what it means to stand for our rights. As workshops unfold across the country, media coverage of the project is carrying these vital stories far beyond workshop participants. Ed Wood, the “Southern boy” quoted above, is mentioned in The Denver Post coverage of the workshop in which he took part.

Ed’s story turns on his experience as a World War II combat veteran who volunteered to fight and found himself profoundly, lastingly marked by the experience—so much so that it took nearly forty years to bring his experience into focus. “I want to be very clear about this,” he told us. “I have no regrets over what happened to me, over volunteering, over being in the war and being injured. That was the duty of my generation. I have regrets over how that war has been worshipped.”

To apply to take part in workshops happening across the country, or to find out how to sponsor a workshop, please visit our website. Whether or not there's a workshop in your town, you will be able to access the growing collection of stories on our Cowbird.com All Together Now page and eventually, to add your own story.

Ed Wood says that his war experience “exploded my universe and I ended up a pacifist, which I am today.” He sees our collective investment in war as directly tied to human rights issues: “I'm very interested in social justice, it's very important to me. But I see that unless we solve the dilemma of being a nation with such a huge military-industrial complex, I don't think we'll ever be able to really approach our social problems. It came to me that I could write about what happened to me and communicate as clearly and concisely and as cold-bloodedly as I can in the hope of educating other people about that horror that we might have to do sometimes, that it is a horror, and never, never to worship it. When evil lies in others, war may be the means of justice—that's a common theme. My writing is about other ways to justice in the world.”

This eighth in our series of StoryCenter blog posts that share voices relating to All Together Now features participants in their eighties and nineties in recent workshops in Denver and Montgomery, Alabama, the latter covered by The Montgomery AdvertiserWatch Eugenia Gardner, a storytelling facilitator and the subject of the first interview in this series, published as we announced All Together Now on the 50th anniversary of the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. Look at an amazing group of photographs from that workshop. Listen to Ann Clemons’ story “The Line” created in the Montgomery workshop. Then ask yourself who has stories to share that inspire others to stand for human and civil rights. Who has stories that convey the kind of turning point Ed Wood experienced when he returned to that former battlefield in France?

“I was already starting to think about the war,” Ed told us. “I mean, I would go into a coffee shop and hear great music, big bands from World War II, and I'd start to cry. I wouldn't have any idea why I was crying. So I was already trying to prepare myself inside for this sense of trying to figure out what had happened to me. Over 35 years I buried all this stuff deep in my unconscious, and then slowly it came back that something had happened to me. I needed to understand, so I went back to France. I was ready to have an emotional experience, a spiritual experience of seeing suddenly that my life had been determined—directed—by events that happened when I was 19 years old and I had no understanding. And I weep now when I think of boys and girls of 19 and 20 who are going through exactly the same thing that I did.”

All Together Now is asking for your stories: stories about human rights, and stories about bridging generation gaps to stand together. This is your opportunity. This All Together Now project is StoryCenter’s gift to young people and elders across the nation. There is still time to apply to take part in a free workshop. What does it mean to you today: the legacy of fifty years ago, and all of the people who have stood for their civil and human rights since? How does your own story connect?

Please join StoryCenter and our great partners—national partners The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human RightsSouthern Poverty Law CenterColor of ChangeEqual Justice SocietyInternational Museum of WomenCowbird, and CommunisPR; and local partners Alternate RootsAmerican Friends Service Committee, DenverHistory ColoradoColoradans for Immigrants RightsGreater Phoenix Urban LeagueDC Public LibraryPainted Bride Art CenterRosa Parks MuseumWarm Cookies of the RevolutionAustin Coming TogetherKennedy Heights Arts CenterDominican UniversityIntertribal Friendship HouseCalifornia Foundation for Independent Living Centers' Youth Organizing! Disabled and Proud, Youth Media ProjectElizabeth City Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, AARP Pasquotank County Chapter, Elizabeth City Pasquotank County Community Relations Commission, Elizabeth City Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, Delta Iota Chapter of Omega Psi Phi, and Elizabeth City Hope Group—in this wonderful project. All together now!