Back in '94 or '95, somewhere in there, the city of Union Point, Georgia experienced a racial crisis. Union Point is a small, remote little city just off the Oconee woods. They had experienced a rapid increase in crime. The crimes included shoplifting, so a number of merchants had expelled the criminals from their stores. It so happened all the expelled criminals were black.
Enter the NAACP. The presence of the NAACP annoyed the klan. The situation intensified. The NAACP planned a protest march. Federal mediators coaxed an agreement out of the antagonists. The NAACP decided to hold the march anyway, and call it a victory march. There were rumors that the klan would show up.
I drove up to Union Point from Manchester to write a story for my underground paper. I dressed for the day in black shoes, black trousers, black silk shirt and a black ribbon secured by an antique gold button as a tie. I wanted to be recognizable as I passed and repassed people on the street, so someone could stop me if they had something new to tell me.
Early in the day, before the events began. I sat in my car near the store fronts, listening to music on my head phones, recording notes from my clippings and research, and composing a list of questions for use during the day. A police officer approached and said I was parked on the parade route and would have to move. Then he got in his car and very quickly moved to a block and a half away across an empty lot and sat watching me move. I was told later they thought my beat up old Nova was a car bomb.
The streets were full. The NAACP was there. The Nation of Islam was there. Merchants and town folk lined the streets. No klan robes were visible but the sentiments were present. I was told to go back to Atlanta to my lesbian friends. I talked to them all. I even talked to the guy who called me a lesbian, after his wife told him to be nice. And as I talked, the scene was watchfully surveyed by an army of police, flac-jacketed anti-terrorist agents and GBI snipers up on the roof tops.
I brought with me 10 or 15 copies of a booklet I had put together, with tractor feed paper and a hand made cover, all prettied up and stapled neatly. It contained some stories I had written previously about marches and protests and rallies. Because I was not as well known as, say, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, I planned to give out my booklets as I made my way around town so people would have an idea what sorts of things I wrote about. Then, when I passed by again with my black clothes and gold button, they might have things to tell me.
My booklets were snapped up. The people I gave them to were quickly surrounded by little knots of friends reading over their shoulders. When they finished reading the booklets were handed off to someone else and another little knot of over-the-shoulder readers would form.
I write from a rather operational standpoint. How many people, what groups, were there enough toilets, were the planned events entertaining, was the traffic well managed. A bit of a play by play rundown of the affairs..
There was press coverage aplenty on the coming events. Anything beyond the announcements of time and place consisted of righteous editorializing on this side and that. Everybody had the opportunity to make a passionate, moral stand, and just about everybody did so. The townfolk were up to here with moralizing. In this tiny little town, where nothing like this had ever happened before … not EVER … what everyone really wanted to know was WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN? Because I was the only one providing any such information, I got to be a star that day.
Late in the day, when all the scheduled events were over, I was sitting in the grass on the very
empty lot where the police officer had parked to watch me move my car. I was reviewing my notes for the day and jotting down bits of commentary in the margins. A gray haired gentleman in a big 70's model car drove up and approached me, a handful of papers ruffling in the breeze.
He said he had gone to the hall where congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was speaking. She had come to town to make a speech, hoping to use her influence to bring calm to the city. He prepared some notes to take to her to tell her what the real cause of the problems in Union Point were about. But after he heard her speaking, he changed his mind. He said I know you are a writer. I hope you will publish this. If you give any of it to the police, don't give it to any federal people. They won't do anything.
He got in his car and backed down the street for two blocks before he turned around and drove away, so I couldn't see his tag.
According to the papers, the real cause of the problems in Union Point was drugs. The upsurge in crime was the direct result of an increase in drug business in town. He gave names, addresses and details. All carefully hand written on a pile of 8 ½ x 11 writing paper.
I took notes on the contents for my own use and gave the papers to the GBI. From that day to this, I have heard of nothing else terribly eventful in Union Point.
Now I am a writer. Obviously I am a great believer and defender of free speech. But sometimes our speech gets disembodied, becomes separated from the rest of our functions as Americans. We get into these terrible orgies of free speech that do nothing but feed our own righteousness by consuming the lives and struggles of real and ordinary people. If you can't put some elbow grease into your free speech, then shut up. http://auntieracist.tripod.com