My dad died in August. My brother, going through some of his papers, recently found a copy of the alternative student newspaper I helped edit as part of a "collective" in the fall of 1968, my senior year of high school. When on the phone last night he asked me if I recalled its title ("Credenda"), to my genuine surprise I did and rather quickly despite the fact that I'd not thought of it at all -- really -- for close to forty-four years.
"Credenda", from the Latin, are ideas to be believed, to be held dear. My brother uploaded it and sent it to me and, alternately smiling and wincing, I've read all of the single issue we --about ten of us --published. (We even had ads!) He also sent me copies of a letter my dad wrote to the principal defending our right to distribute the paper on campus. It appears that after some wrangling, we did distribute it. Nothing in the paper, of course, was subversive despite the fact that the school believed it was, we believed it was, and that we gloriously were.
In late August, 1968 I watched Abbie, David, Jerry, Tom, Rennie, John, Bobby, and Lee -- the Chicago Eight -- cheerfully make confetti of the Democratic National Convention and Hubert Humphrey's chances. I considered them, of course, close pals so I needn't mention their last names -- Hoffman/Rubin/Dellinger/Hayden/Davis/Froines/Seale/Weiner -- so I won't. I watched my friends from the sea-breezy comfort of a summer rental near Barnegat Light, New Jersey.
Certain at seventeen that my name belonged in that Pantheon, I'd spend the better part of that June, July, and the first half of August, with about twenty friends from my suburban Philadelphia high school three or four nights each week in a cultural and political training center that seemed to have simply popped up, emerged, come-into-being, in a storefront in a more working-class town several miles up the road. To this moment I've no idea who set it up, whether the Panthers, SDS, or some local, less extreme yet sympathetic affinity group.
We were not taught to, nor were we exhorted to, make bombs.
I know for sure that I'd have fled any group whose teaching would have even possibly delayed or cut short my late-August beach-time. After all, the December before I'd spent six ecstatically revolutionary hours in Philadelphia lockup having been hauled in from helping to block the doors to the city's largest Draft Board office. It got me a very worried mom, a "deeply concerned" dad -- I'd ditched school to do it -- the sincere conviction that I never agan wished to see the inside of a cell, and my junior year spring term girlfriend. (She later married a funeral director -- not my fault.)
What we were taught very well was to read, write, and debate social justice pieces and we were continually moved to think about career choices that would "make a difference". We read and wrote about Marx, Mao, Tom Hayden, others. I recall that some of what we read and discussed put me off. A then famous piece that sought to have us believe that we, upper-middle class teenagers, were exploited as much as African-Americans had been, Jerry Farber's "The Student As Nigger", more than put me off. The idea that I could think for a second that I should consider myself as done upon as slaves and ex-slaves and Jim Crow's victims, as put upon as the victims of the Mississippi Klan, made me ill. I recall my offering that the comparison was disingenuous and nauseating gained me no public admirers the night I said it, but I know for sure that mine was the majority view. We also read and wrote about Ebony Magazine's 1965 still-resonant piece, the marvelous "The White Problem in America". It turned on its head -- and rightly, of course -- the then usual phrase. Overall, the training was useful and reified for me my until then inchoate sense that I wanted to teach and write. It set me up well for Senior Honors English with the most demanding teacher I was to have prior to university.
While I cannot yet get the jpg onto this page, here were the articles and, in any case, I haven't the permission of the writers (with some of whom I am still in touch). As you read, try, if you were alive and conscious, to remember what 1968 was like.
The cover of the manually typed then mimeographed pages had an image of the Statue of Liberty to the right of an elaborately drawn word, "CREDENDA". Articles included
. a call to revise our student constitution,
. a scathing piece on Alabama's George Wallace (then running as a third-party candidate for president),
. an interview with a Temple University professor of economics on the upcoming election,
. an article on draft-counseling and a list of related anti-Vetnam War "actions" and teach-ins by area professors and activists,
. a piece arguing for the direct, popular election of presidents,
. an article alleging that Congress thumbs its nose at religious freedom,
. a call to student activism (written by my oldest friend whom I am delighted to be in contact now regularly. I'll call him on his birthday Friday and welcome him to "61" and assure him that it feels very much like 60).
. a short piece on What Makes for Effective Teaching,
. a detailed denunciation of the police-instigated riot at the Democratic National Convention, and
. a piece on Philadelphia activists' after-hours Liberation Schools (run by the group People for Human Rights).
Re-reading it, I have to say that "Credenda" was sincere, informative, on-the-mark on the issues, and (reasonably) literate.
Finally, as I say, we sold ad-space. I, myself, paid $.75 for this one:
"ATTAIN TRU HAPPINESS THRU POVERTY.
SEND ALL YOUR MONEY TO
BOX 101, c/o THIS NEWSPAPER."