Sunday, June 6, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (viii)

Around the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road there were at least three movie houses in the Spring of 1971. And it was in a movie house on the Grand Concourse in April or May of 1971 that I first saw the movie Catch 22. Around the same time, on a Saturday night, I also saw Costa Gavras’ Z movie and the movie about a police cover-up and police corruption in Italy during the late 1960s, Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion. Since the Bronx movie house was filled to capacity on the Saturday night I saw Z and Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion, and most of the audience consisted of culturally straight white working-class residents from the Bronx neighborhood who were over 50 years old, I mistakenly assumed that even the Hollywood film distributors were now going to be willing to market politically radical films in the 1970s; and that this was an indication that, if even Hollywood was recognizing how politically corrupt the System was, Revolution was still going to happen in the 1970s, as quickly as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin had indicated it was going to happen.

Yet when I heard Jerry Rubin speak at Fordham University one afternoon before an anti-war student group in the student union building on Fordham’s Bronx campus in early May of 1971, Rubin seemed less upbeat about the prospect of Revolution happening quickly in the USA than he had been during the previous academic year—despite the fact that his follow-up book to Do It!—the book We Are Everywhere—had just recently been published.

Observing that, for the first time in four years, there had not been a “spring anti-war offensive” by U.S. anti-war students on U.S. campuses in the Spring of 1971, Rubin attributed the relative U.S. campus calm during the 1970-1971 academic year to “the four deadly bullets at Kent State.” In Rubin’s view, although anti-war yippies were “everywhere” in 1971, the realization that Pig Amerika was willing to kill its own white children rather than end its war in Indochina had scared large numbers of the rebellious white students of the 1969-1970 academic year from continuing their rebellious anti-war activism on campus during the 1970-1971 academic year, in the aftermath of the Kent State and Jackson State Massacres.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (vii)

When I wished to mingle more with people in April and May of 1971, I would walk west along Fordham Road, past Webster Avenue and then to the Grand Concourse and towards Jerome Avenue. Sometimes I would take a left and walk south on University Avenue towards the NYU Uptown campus in the Bronx, which still hadn’t yet been sold to CUNY and renamed Bronx Community College, and stop at a local branch of the New York Public Library around there. A few times I walked around the NYU Uptown campus, but I can’t recall talking with anybody there or noticing any political activity going on there in the Spring of 1971.

Near West 184th or West 183rd St. and the Grand Concourse, however, there was still some kind of a Movement storefront run by a collective of a few ex-New Left student radicals who had joined either SDS’s Weatherman faction for a short time, before it disappeared into the underground, or PL’s SDS Worker-Student Alliance faction. I stopped in there once and spoke with a white Movement woman in her mid-20s who was staffing the storefront that day.

She seemed to be anti-war and socialist in her politics and someone who would be considered physically appealing by most men. But by June of 1971 she seemed to have gotten discouraged about the possibility that ex-New Left student radicals like her were going to be able to have much success interesting anybody in the Bronx neighborhood surrounding her collective’s storefront in getting involved in the Movement. And she seemed to be on the verge of burning-out herself as an activist.

Not feeling any personal warmth or enthusiasm radiating from her in the storefront, I wasn’t tempted to volunteer to work politically with her collective in the Bronx in June of 1971. In addition, by June of 1971, I was starting to worry again about where I would get some more money to survive economically during the Summer of 1971, and I did not feel the gradualist approach to building a Movement, that her collective still seemed to be into, would provide any kind of relief to my developing personal economic survival problems, as the Summer of 1971 approached.