Cass Technical High

Thu Feb 21 15:44:06 MST 2002

In a message dated Thu, 21 Feb 2002  2:22:32 PM Eastern Standard Time, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:

> Joe Freemen:
> >John Watson played an important role in this process - one that altered the
> >political fabric of America, and needs to be mentioned in as much as he died
> >November 16, 2001. Watson - Kenneth John Watson was born January 11, 1944,
> in
> >Detroit, Michigan and began his political activism based on his parents
> >support and activism, who were early supporters of SCLC (Southern Christian
> >Leadership Conference). At age 16, Watson had led a protest that led to the
> >desegregation of public swimming pools in Michigan. Watson was an
> >intellectual, having graduated from Cass Technical High School and then
> >enrolled in Wayne State University. Cass Technical High has an unbroken
> >history of intellectual excellence and even been the home of "Jazz Greats"
> >like Donald Byrd - "Spaces and Places" album, Christ-o Redento (Christ the
> >Redeemer), Flight Time, "Black Jack" album, "Street Lady" and the phase of
> >jazz called fusion. The idea that the workers do not draw a line of
> >distinction between the intellectuals of their soul, administrators and
> >bureaucrats who exercise arbitrary authority by virtue of a "job" leads to
> >wrong conclusions.
> Two of the more extraordinary African-American Marxists I had the good
> fortune to know during my lifetime were both graduates of Cass. One was
> Derrick Morrison, the other was Norman Oliver. Like thousands of others,
> they went through the revolving doors of the Socialist Workers Party.
> Derrick is about my age and the last I heard he was working in longshore in
> New Orleans and studying math in grad school, mostly for pleasure. He came
> around the party after hearing George Breitman speak at a Militant Forum in
> Detroit. Breitman was the SWP leader who first called the party's attention
> to Malcolm X, while he was still in the Nation of Islam and railing against
> white devils. This is one of the reasons, by the way, that I tend to cut
> Islamic radicalism more slack today than most Marxists. Maybe I'm wrong,
> but it is a risk worth taking. One of my most vivid memories of Derrick was
> at a 1969 YSA convention at which Fred Hampton had been invited to speak.
> After haranguing the crowd of mostly white radicals long past his allotted
> time for being "chicken shit liberals", Derrick went up to him and told him
> his time was up. That took a lot of guts, both politically and personally.
> Hampton would be murdered in his bed by Chicago cops a year or so later.
> The other guy was Norman Oliver, now known as Mohammed Oliver. Like most
> people in the 1980s who would drop out, he found that the party simply
> could not supply the kind of intellectual and political challenge that we
> had known in the 1960s and 70s. He pursued an interesting path outside the
> party, getting twin degrees in anthropology and medicine. The last I heard,
> he was practicing in Alaska in order to meet obligations for financial aid
> advanced him in school--just like in the TV show "True North".
> I didn't know Mohammad half as well as Derrick, but whatever was going on
> at Cass when they were there should be bottled and sent out to the black
> community today. It was potent stuff.
I am not sure what it was with Cass Tech and Wayne State University. Perhaps they allowed the individual to actually think and ponder. Interestingly, CLR James "group" 'Facing Reality' was located in Detroit along with James and Grace Boggs and of course the CPUSA had that wonderful bookstore off of Wayne's campus. Lord . . . no one "fought" over "ism" we just diagreed with the next guy and then figured out what we were going to do together. Everyone did their visit to the SWP formum on Woodward and Alexzandria. Frank joyce group "People Against racism" and later the Motor City Labor League, Revolution Per Minute, etc., were deeply respected by everyone and everybody went to each others fundraisers.

Yes, it was a different kind of Marxism that evolved in Detroit and everyone respected each others freedom to be obstinate. Which is why you had to pull a "guy" off the stage. And the guy plled off off stage thanked you because he understood you were "right."

Oh, this new book about "white men being stupid" or whatever it is has never really set to well with those of us in Detroit, trying to get our kids into Cass Tech. I really don't like those kind of titles and have a very different sense of humor. Even when we are mistaken we are not stupid - just wrong and it is the next fellows responsibility to pull us off of the stage. If we knew we were wrong we would be honorable and pull our damn self off of the stage.

Nuthing but love.

Joe Freemen

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