Interview with Kevin White
QUESTION 11
JACKIE SHEARER:

Going to that evening, the meeting at Freedom House.

KEVIN WHITE:

What that, that, that first night, evening?

JACKIE SHEARER:

Ellen Jackson gave you a call and asked you to come over there?

KEVIN WHITE:

N--yes, but, but actually the Blacks had gone to City Hall or some of the Black leadership. Among them a man that's just been re-elected state senator, Bill Owens. And I think Ellen was one of the Black leaders in whom I had the most faith. She was responsible, she was toughs and she was experienced. And I think she did call and ask me to see the group. They came to City Hall about 3:00. They were, uh, emotionally agitated, to say the least. They were scared. And, uh, they were frightened. And, uh, they asked me to go up to Freedom House that night. And I was hesitant to do it. It would show partisanship overnight, immediately. The one thing that I had tried to avoid in the summer without looking wishy-washy. But I understood that it was, that, that, that I had to go. And Owens assured me that he could control the crowd and that we could conduct something that was a semblance of a meeting. I went to Freedom House. Ah, when I arrived, Ellen Jackson greeted me, told me that there were about a hundred or two hundred women. However num--how the number was in a hall and that I had to go in and speak to them, but I couldn't bring anybody with me. I couldn't bring any bodyguards. I couldn't bring any assistants. I couldn't bring anybody but myself. And so, uh, I went downstairs into this large hall. I walked in. There were about a hundred, two hundred women. And, uh, Owens went to introduce me, but it was immediate to me, apparent immediately that he was not in control, nor were the women in control of themselves. There was a, a murmur of hysteria that you find when someone, individually or collectively, are scared. You don't hear it very often. It's like a buzz. It's, it's, it's, it's, it's, it's, it's the perimeters of a seance. And this was terror. And so I began to communicate but then all of a sudden there were "You promised us." And I think it's impossible for anybody to understand. But you have to be devoid of any emotion--even if you're not even married and had no children--to realize that these were women, Black women, who were sending their children on a bus and were watching on television while they're being stoned, escorted by police. I even had to, there isn't one of us that can understand what that is. You say, "Well, they'll be alright." But it's your own child. Better you go yourself and that's a risk. That's what they did in the, in the Freedom March in Selma, but the adults went. The, the, the startling aspect of this were the adults were all at home, as I was on the hill. It was the children that were going. And so that terror was so expressed in them. And, and what I was trying to get out of them was only one thing and get out the hall, was, "Give me another day." And I, I, uh, uh, almost in a formal plea said, "Give me another chance." I had very little evidence that I was very successful in the first chance. The first day was, uh, was a nightmare from every point of view. The image of Boston internationally and nationally. Our own sense of control, the passions on both sides, and uh, it was inauspicious--that's, that's a ridiculous description--but it, it was, I, I just wanted to, I had absorbed their fears without any sense of confidence as I left, almost in a mental frame of trying to escape the hall. I don't know. I left the hall. I get into my car. I didn't want to talk. I was filled with, uh, with some of that emotion. Frustration, I thi--the word is frustration for me. That, always that element of self-sympathy but frustration. I didn't want to speak and got a ca--call on the car phone that there was a similar crowd in South Boston, and would I come? And I refused to do that. I'm sorry--