Interview with Ben Chavis

Give a sense of driving up from north carolina with a carload of local organizers and coming into Gary. you mentioned the red, Black and green flags and stuff. If can you talk about that drive?


Well, our preparation to go to, ah, Gary, Indiana, for the convention was, ah, enormous. First of all, you know, we had a statewide convention ourselves, in North Carolina. Thousands of people attended. And, of course, we sent hundreds of delegates, ah, from across the state of North Carolina to, ah, Gary. Some went by bus, some went by car, some went by plane. We drove up. And all the way up, we were, ah, you know, thinking about well, what we were going to see when we arrived in Gary. I had never been to Gary, Indiana, before, although I had heard about, ah, Mayor Hatcher being the mayor. And I remember when we first, ah, saw the sign saying, ah, "Welcome to Gary," and we got downtown Gary, I mean, we thought we were in a different country. I mean, ah, to see a city in the United States, given the backdrop now of all this Nixon repression going on, all this sense of disillusionment in some quarters of the nation, to drive into Gary, Indiana, and see streamers, red, Black and green, and "Welcome, ah, National Black, ah, Political Convention,"** ah, and, then we found our way to the City Hall. And the City Hall was all decorated with red, Black, and green banners. I mean, it was, ah, a fulfillment, ah, of what a lot of our dreams were**. And we know that the Gary Convention was time limited. But it was important to have that time to come into that city and that place. It made us feel good. It made us see visibly with our eyes that the struggle had not been in vain. That at least in one municipality, ah, there had been some control to the extent to which a national Black convention could be welcomed. But not only just welcomed, but graciously welcomed. And affirmed the cause of the struggle in the welcome. I think that was very important.