Monday, 25 December 2006
Eric Weinberger, RIP
Here are some photos of Eric performing with the Free Southern Theater in "In White America", Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 3 August 1964:
I'll post a longer article [update: see text below] when I have more time to do better justice to my memories of Eric, and to his extraordinary contributions through the decades to peace, freedom, and humanity.
[Addendum: A memorial gathering will be held Saturday, 10 February 2007, beginning at 1 p.m. at the Community Church of Boston at 565 Boylston St. (Copley Square), +1-617-266-6710. Feel free to contact me for more information]
[Further addendum: More on Eric's life and contributions from Boston Indy Media.]
[Further addendum: Eric Weinberger: A Peacemaker Behind the Scenes , by Edward Hasbrouck, Peacework magazine, February 2007; see copy below.]
[Further addendum: Eric Weinberger, 1932-2006 , by Aaron St. Jean, Z Magazine, February 2007.]
[Further addendum: Belated but excellent obituary published in the Boston Globe on the day of the memorial.]
Since Peacework is no longer being published or available online, I'm posting the article here that I wrote about Eric for the February 2007 edition of the magazine:
Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 25 December 2006, 07:55 ( 7:55 AM) | TrackBack (0)
Eric Weinberger: A Peacemaker Behind the Scenes
by Edward Hasbrouck
Eric Weinberger died December 15, 2006, in Boston at age 74.
Tom Cohen's book, "Three Who Dared," includes a few chapters of "The Eric Weinberger Story," but it will take a full-length biography to do justice to Eric's decades of nonviolent struggle for peace, freedom, and human liberation.
As a teenager, Eric ran away from his middle-class family in New York City to join a traveling carnival. At age 15, he enrolled in one of the first formal programs for the academically gifted at the University of Chicago, but he couldn't stomach the scholastic regimentation. His instinctive anarchism was deepened in a later stint at Black Mountain College, and in beat literary and theatrical circles through the 1950's before he encountered the pacifist New England Committee for Nonviolent Action. From CNVA, he went to Tennessee in 1961 to organize a craftworkers collective that provided economic independence for sharecroppers thrown off their land for trying to register to vote.
"I knew Eric very well, of course, when he was at New England CNVA, and as he worked in the South with the ex-sharecroppers," remembers fellow CNVA staffer Marjorie Swann Edwin. "He did a fantastic job of helping them to get businesses started, making items which were sold through the peace and civil rights networks. He finally had to leave because of serious threats on his life, but he stuck it out for far longer than most people would have."
Eric worked in the front lines of the southern civil rights movement. He trained volunteers for Freedom Summer, and survived vicious police and vigilante attacks during freedom marches as well as multiple arrests and several prison fasts including one of more than a month.
When whites were asked to leave SNCC, Eric turned down an invitation to join an otherwise all-Black singing group and returned North to work with CNVA, the 5th Avenue Peace Parade Committee, and the Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam in a series of critical but largely behind-the-scenes administrative and organizing jobs. His contributions ranged from the creation of the first movement telephone hotline, the technically innovative "Dial-A-Demonstration," to a central role in logistics for the demonstrations at the Democratic Convention in 1968.
Much later, Eric discovered from his FBI file that he would have been indicted with the Chicago 8 for "conspiracy to cross state lines to incite a riot" -- except that the FBI couldn't figure out where and how he crossed the Illinois state line. Unlike the others indicted, he hadn't flown to Chicago but had driven, characteristically unnoticed, in a truck with the sound equipment (a novel system of multiple "loud-hailers" daisy-chained together, so that small units hand-carried within the line of march could be heard throughout a moving crowd of thousands of people).
For a few years while he was responsible for the parenting and financial support of his equally exceptional son, Jeffrey, Eric refrained from the most risky forms of political action. A natural hacker, he learned to program one of the first personal computers, and used it to develop a sophisticated accounting system for Rounder Records. He returned to direct action and civil disobedience in the late 1970s to take part in the campaign against the Seabrook nuclear power plant and subsequent peace and anti-nuclear activities. By the late 1980s, he had taken on primary responsibility for Food Not Bombs in Boston, serving the hungry and homeless devotedly for 15 years until increasingly severe symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease prevented him from carrying on that work.
Eric was modest and often depressed, with a deep suspicion of "leaders" and a low sense of self-worth. Few of those who knew him in any one context were aware of his history of activism in others. But he was a hero to many for his humanity, empathy, egalitarianism, and integrity. For a few who learned more of his story, and had the privilege to work with him, he was an inspiring example -- and, for some, a mentor -- in nonviolent action.
A memorial will be held on February 10, 1 pm, at the Community Church of Boston, 565 Boylston St. (Copley Square); 617/266-6710; www.commchurch.org.