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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor O ral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, re ligious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer t o both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF D igital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to refl ect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.histor y.ufl.edu or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013
MFP 0 71C Interviewee: Dr. Alan Bean and Mrs. Nancy Bean Interviewer: Jessica Taylor Date: September 20, 2012 T: This is Jessica Taylor interviewing Dr. and Mrs. Bean on September 20, 2012 at 10:10 a.m. Mrs. Bean, can you please introduce yourself? NB: I'm Nancy Bean. I was born Nancy Kiker [Laughter] And . I've been an activist since I was born. It was I'v e always felt, I guess it's a grandiose thing that what I did mattered. It was a calling. When I was four, my mother ran over me. I fell out of the car and because this was before there was seat belts so she stopped at the pastor's house in this little bit ty town to deliver a pie or who knows what, and she said, stay in the car, and I tried to get out because she stayed a few too many minutes and I, you know, wanted to see what was going on. So I managed to, evidently, get the door kind of ajar, and when sh e came back she didn't notice that the door was ajar, so she drove off and I fell out and she ran over me. When she came out of the car, the front tire was on my chest, and so she had to get back in the car and drive off of me. And . my dad was working at a little farm supply store across the street. They called the ambulance and the ambulance came and everything, but I wouldn't let them touch me, I would only let my dad touch me, so he carried me to the hospital. And I was fine, I was just fine. But t he pastor who my mother was visiting told me and I'm talking about a four year old he told me that God had a plan for my life. So it was this grandiose thing, right? But it's haunted me all my life, that I'v e had to make my life count. So, basically, our l ife has been a struggle to make it count. And we didn't always have a place to put that, you know? You have to make up your own hook. So, in a way, our history looks like a witness protection program,
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 2 because we've tried to make everything we did count, an d that wasn't when you go into the pastoral ministry, that's not what they have in mind. They don't have in mind that you're going to be stirring up a revolution, they have in mind that you're going to be blessing you're going to be there to bless the way things are. So, we've always been very, very uncomfortable our life, I guess that would be the definition of our life, uncomfortable, right? AB: It would be a definition. NB: One definition of our life is uncomfortable. But, the way we moved to Tulia and I guess everybody wants to know about Tulia because Tulia is what became a national struggle. Up to that, everything was, our life was not different, it's just, our struggles were not in nobody was, there was no cameras. There were no cameras. JT: Okay. NB: In Tulia, what happened was, we were feeling restless. And I was feeling particularly restless. Here we were in a suburb . Alan was marginally employed because, once again, he had been preaching the Gospel that we understood it, which is a revolutiona ry gospel; the parables of the least of these, and that the grace of God means that . we aren't living the grace of God unless we are . including everyone as brothers and sisters. And that is an economic, that's an economic thing. That's a revoluti onary thing. Anyway, so he was we were run off from this church in Derby AB: Kansas.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 3 NB: In Derby, Kansas, right after Alan had this was his first job after he had finished his Ph.D. So, I was teaching; so, he took this little small, part time ministry i n a Methodist church. After three years, we were just feeling restless. We were living in a suburb and everybody lived you know, they lived from garage to garage. You know? You could see the garage doors go up and down. There was no community, though. And the kids were in good schools, but there was no community, and I felt like we were just not teaching. The kids were not learning what it meant to be citizens of the Kingdom. So, I started having dreams, and we started doing a study on community life. We we re reading books about different communities; the Bruder Hoff community, which is a Christian community which is not, it's not of Mennonite origin, but it's Mennonite practice and we decided we were going to have to make a major change. And so, in the end, it turned out just everything fell in place so that we decided to move back to my hometown. My parents were going to be retiring there. My sister decided, if we were going to be close to my parents, so was she, so she and her husband sold their houses and quit their jobs and we all we had a caravan, I call it a family reunion on crack. So we all sold, quit our jobs and moved to Tulia, and Alan so, he quit his job so we were moving to this small town. Well, what was a guy with a Ph.D. in church history goin g to do in this little bitty town? So he said, well, I'll finish my novel and I'll get part time, interim pastorates, and maybe I can get a little country church and then write and have a little country church, part time country church or something. I was able to get a job teaching in the panhandle of Texas. So, we packed up; we'd sold our house, we packed up the kids. Lydia headed off
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 4 to college and the boys came with us, and we had in mind or, I had in mind, anyway, this family reunion; this quilting bees this re introducing the kids to living in community and belonging. And that kind of backfired. That's not what happened. The first few months, we actually got invited to the quilting be es which my family still does and family dinners, and we had birthday parties, and the kids played football and basketball and started to be big men on campus. Amos was in junior high and Adam was in high school. But then I read about this in the newspaper, we read about this kid named Jamie Moore who had just received a se venty five year sentence for rape. It was considered aggravated rape, but there was no weapon. I said to Alan, Jamie Moore, is he one of my kinfolks? Because my mother's mother, one of her family's names is Moore. So we were attending the Baptist church at the time Alan didn't have an interim at this time we were attending the Baptist church and so, on Wednesday night, I said, I can't sleep at night because I read this article about this little boy, Jamie Moore, who was seventeen, eighteen, who's been given a seventy five year life sentence. I just I can't sleep, there's something wrong. The pastor said this is a Wednesday night, Bible study kind of thing the pastor says, well, the victim of the rape is our pianist's daughter, who's right here, and he's prob ably he might be your relative, but he's black, and what exactly were the words he said? AB: Well, I can't remember, but he suggested he was from one of the very worst families. NB: Yeah, and a thug. AB: Nobody we'd want to be associated with.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 5 NB: So that was sort of like shh. Because I put it out as a prayer request, and it was just, poof. At that point, I could feel all the curtains closing. And we continued trying to do some research on that, and that's when the drug bust hit, and that was all in the pap ers and on television. We didn't see it on television at first because we weren't watching television. But we were looking at the names in the paper because we were looking for our relatives; my parents had moved, also, to retire, back to their hometown. M y father was in the pastoral ministry and we had lived all over the place. AB: We had only been in Tulia for a month or so. NB: Yeah, because they waited till my mother could retire and they moved back. We started looking at the names listed in the paper to see who, which one of my relatives had been caught, because I had several lots of cousins who were . involved in drugs. We could well, and underemployed. I'm from very humble roots, as is Alan. And we didn't find their names, but my dad started read ing the addresses, and he said, oh, these people are all on the black part of town. And my mother says, what are we how can this town have forty six kingpin drug dealers? Who are these people selling to? This can't be right. So that's when we started doing this investigation, and we didn't realize what we were getting into. We started struggling and trying to get people's attention, because we didn't know anybody. We had never had any involvement; we didn't run in the circles of people who were incarcerated We didn't know what was going on in the system. We kind of assumed that the Civil Rights Movement had made justice, right? And there was justice now.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 6 AB: Yeah. From the time that we graduated from seminary to the time that we arrived in Tulia, which was 1975 to 1998, the prison population in America had increased by a factor of six, and we didn't know it. NB: No, we didn't know anything about AB: I mean, we knew they were locking up more people probably, than we had been, but we had no idea of the magnit ude of all of this. NB: No. No. Alan did a lot of research on that. But, for us, at this point, it wasn't a sociological question. It was just a local, feeling compelled that these were our neighbors, what's going on? And, at the beginning, it was a very s piritual exercise. I mean, what what's going on? We didn't know what was at risk. We started putting out calls: the Justice Department my father was involved in this, my mother the Justice Department, NAACP, ACLU, nobody cared. I mean, because, we didn't r ealize that this is business as usual. There was no this is nothing unusual. So, we decided we had to organize ourselves. Finally, we were able to get a local chapter of LULAC to invite us to just come out and talk, and they set us up with a lawyer, one of the lawyers in Plain View who was working for the defendants. So, Alan and my father went to talk to him. By now, it's January. It was actually Martin Luther King Day, and there was some activity; there was a house repair day that some of the local commun ities were working on. It was LULAC and the TRLA, which is Texas Rural Legal Aid. By the way, Texas Rural Legal Aid is forbidden to do any criminal defense. AB: Or political
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 7 NB: Or anything political. In other words, nothing. Basically, they couldn't do a nything because they're funded by the federal government. It was . anyway, we were put in touch with them, so we took a caravan of families who had family members impacted by the drug sting. We went down to work in the housing repair, and while Alan a nd my father went and spoke to the lawyer, it was a crisis. Because the lawyer AB: The drug sting happened in July 23, 1999, and this was NB: In January. AB: January 16, I think, 2000. Quite a bit of time had elapsed. NB: Yeah. So, what happened was, the lawyer told Alan and my father that they didn't want to get involved in this. That, if we decided to get involved in this, we should know that the DA would not be above putting out a hit out on our family, and certainly not be above planting drugs in our vehicles. We had two teenage sons, so that was a very real threat; and, two teenage sons who were just starting to drive, so, you know, driving is a very vulnerable activity for being stopped, pulled over, searched. So, what we did that night, we took it h ome to our boys and we had a family meeting and told them what the deal was. Of course, they were teenage boys, so they're not afraid of anything because they don't know what the consequences of anything are, so they said, oh, no, we're in, somebody's got to do it and it's going to be us. So, it changed our lives, because what it meant was, we were deciding that we were going to be ousted from the family not my parents, but the extended family. So, we received not too long after, Lydia graduated actually, t his is four years later, this is a long struggle
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 8 what happens is, when we go to basketball games and football games where our kids are playing, we know no one knows us any longer. Family friends from ever and ever AB: We're always sitting by ourselves. NB : No longer know us. AB: We're excommunicated. NB: Yes. By now, I'm teaching in Tulia, and there's no place for me to sit at a faculty meeting because all the places are saved. No one speaks to me anymore in the school except the Mexicans. [Laughter] The custodians, the TAs who don't have any status, the cafeteria workers. Actually, they became my spies and they would come and tell me what was being said in some room or AB: Because they were virtually invisible. NB: They were invisible. I didn't realize t his, but the help still is invisible. So, they could be in a room and people would just keep talking as if they weren't hearing, and then they would come and tell me what was going on. Our phones were tapped. My brakes were cut one morning when I went off to work. And we didn't ever call the police because it was the police that we were afraid of. The police were following our children; our boys. They didn't tell us at the time, they told us years later, you know? That they were being pulled over regularly and . it was very traumatic, but, you know, I feel sometimes I feel sorry that we put our kids in this position where they really didn't get a very good education in the public school; because it was a small town, the expectations were quite low. But w e gave them an education, a real education.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 9 AB: One of the things that was so hard about this is that, of course, however ambivalent our feelings about organized religion might have been, we wanted our kids to have a faith that worked for them. And, becaus e our involvement brought out the absolute worst in the local religious community I'm talking, primarily the white religious community at this point they got a very jaundiced view of religion in general, and found it very difficult to take Christians serio usly. NB: Yeah, oh, yeah. AB: As religious people. And that made it hard for them to relate to the whole faith dimension, which was not true for our daughter. NB: She was away at college. AB: But it was true for our two sons. NB: Yeah. So, when she graduat ed I sent an invitation college invitation to the matriarch and patriarch of our family, Aunt Lucy and Uncle John. And they sent it back with additional pages scrawled, disinviting us from the family, telling us that they had torn up all of our children's pictures AB: And taken them off the refrigerator. NB: Taken the pictures off the refrigerator. AB: The ultimate excommunication. NB: Yeah, that's ultimate excommunication. It was very, very hard on my mother, especially, because this was almost like her mother, because her mother had died when she was pretty young. Aunt Lucy and Uncle John kind of had stepped in. Interestingly enough, Aunt Lucy, in the last few years, has had a stroke which destroyed her short term memory, and she no longer carries those grudges.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 10 [Laughter] So we can visit her again. I mean, she's not all there, but she will now receive us. But, you know, you can't go home again. Even though I say I'd been an activist all my life, it was like I was a conspirator; a conspirator who didn't r eally understand what the conspiracy was. The church people that we tried to minister to understood that we weren't playing their game. They didn't understand what the conspiracy was, either, but at this point it all came into perspective, that . that there is really a systematic . plan to make sure that some people have more power and more power and some people have no power. So . I guess my goal is to empower. That's what I do. That's what my profession is. I mean, I went into counseling after that. Empowering the least of these is our ministry, and it's what brought us together, it's what kept us together, it's what we've taught our children. And the boys still haven't come back to see it totally as a faith thing because they were so hurt not just by what happened in Tulia, but by our experiences in churches all around. Amos, our youngest, says he gets nauseated when he walks into a church. The smell of the church makes him nauseated. But yet, he's teaching Special Ed. So, he is empowering the least of these. Adam is starting to have a perspective on it; he turned thirty, and he's starting to have a perspective on it that's not quite so negative. He's starting to realize that what he's doing is an empowering project. Our daughter teaches at Bayl or, and she's not sure she's going to play the academic game, either. Once she gets tenure which is like winning your prize in the system she may leave the academy and actually try to work with Friends of Justice, try to get some
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 11 funding so that she can ma ke empowerment a full time, a full time. I don't really know what else to say. T: I have questions. [Laughter] NB: Good, good, good. Oh, good, yay. Good. T: So, first of all, before you moved to Tulia, where was your mind with empowering? How did you pick this path out of all of the things that you could have done that NB: Moving to Tulia? How did I pick which path, empowerment, or who to empower? T: Yeah. Actually, the second one. How did you two meet, and how did it get to mass incarceration? NB: We met . Alan was at seminary in Lousiville. The truth is, it's kind of if you believe in providence, it's a good story for providence. If you believe in karma, it's a good story for karma. Whatever. But my father had gotten his Ph.D. at Southern Seminary in Lousville, Kentucky, in 1968, the summer you know, it was a. And we moved to Edmonton, Alberta, in 1968, the summer of 1968. I was still in junior high. Alan was living in Edmonton, Alberta. My father actually supply preached. My father accepted a position at a little school there, a little German Baptist school. My father actually supply preached at Alan's church. I accompanied him because I went everywhere with my dad, he's my hero; still is. But we didn't meet. We actually know people in common for those three years; we were there three years in Alberta. Alan was in Alberta. We actually met when Alan came down to seminary in Lousville. I had just finished university in Lexington, Kentucky, and I was contemplating going to seminary. I had a little
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 12 job, a l ittle nothing job, civil service job, counting things. [Laughter] It was counting jobs, is what it was. I can't remember what it was job analysis, it was a job analysis job. It was a make work job. And we met at a party, a youth young adult party, and when we were introduced, Alan had actually heard of me because I was pretty firey. Actually, I was hot. I was hot. [Laughter] I had long hair down to my waist, you know? Red hair and a red personality, red headed personality. Anyway, he met me; we were introdu ced by . one of my cohorts at university, and she said, this is Nancy Kiker. She just graduated from the University of Kentucky with me in Human Development & Family Relations and Early Childhood Education. And AB: She would make a wonderful NB: She would make a wonderful AB: Mother. NB: Mother. And Alan said, glad to meet you, will you marry me? [Laughter] And I said yes. So, that's how we met. [Laughter] Is that the story you were expecting? Anyway, so, although I wasn't very attracted to him in ma ny ways because he had on a housecoat, it was a masquerade, it was a Halloween party, he had on a housecoat and this little, creepy mask that was for little children. AB: Little kid's mask, yeah. [inaudible 26:30] NB: But he did take his mask off to be int roduced to me, thank God. He really looked ridiculous. And he had on and his hairy legs were at the bottom, out of his housecoat. But he had a guitar. You know? You got to get a guitar if you want to get a gal. So, anyway, I invited Alan was living with fo ur other guys in a walk up
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 13 apartment, four other Seminary students, and two of the other guys were also from Canada. Since I had lived in Canada, this is like, oh, cool, we have something in common. So, I invited them all back to my apartment, which was ac tually an upstairs little apartment in my parents' Edwardian old house. They rented out apartments upstairs so they could actually make the payments. So, I invited the guys, the Canadian guys, up to my apartment for tea after the party, and Alan had to stu dy for a church history exam AB: It was Old Testament. NB: Old Testament. He got an A. He turned me down, got an A on the exam. So, I started going out with one of his roommates. Even though I had already accepted his proposal of marriage, he didn't come to my house for tea, so I started going out with one of his Canadian roommates, who was a real sweetheart, but we were not . AB: He went into life insurance eventually. [Laughter] NB: We were we, I think we were . poling up different rivers. AB: H e went into life insurance and we went the other end of spectrum. NB: Yeah, yeah. So, anyway, Cal Molina, Alan's other Canadian friend, went home and said, Alan, I think Kent's out of his league. Nancy has icons on the wall. [Laughter] So, anyway. Kent wen t in for a conference and he said to Alan, well, I'm going away for the weekend, why don't you keep Nancy company? So, Alan said, okay. So, that was the end of that. We . we talked the entire, we went to the museum, we saw a French AB: Francois Truffa ut movie. [Laughter]
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 14 NB: You know, real dark. AB: Because it was free. [Laughter] NB: Yeah, because it was free. [Laughter] And we both, I pretended like I knew what was going on, but I'd never been to an art I'd never even been to art museum, Alan. But I pretended like I was, you know, sophisticated, I tried to be. He was pretending we . AB: We were both pretending to be sophisticated for each other, I guess. NB: Yeah, we were. But we couldn't stop talking. Went for a walk in Central Park in Lousvil le; we talked and talked and then we came back to my apartment and talked and talked. He started to leave and he said, well, I'll see you around. [Laughter] He was so retarded. He didn't know that, I'll see you around, means, fuck off. So I said, no, don't see my around, call me tomorrow. So he did. We were married very shortly after that because we were we couldn't stop talking. T: So mass incarceration and the justice aspect of this comes together. [Laughter] You discovered it together. NB: We discovered it together accidentally. We did not ever think about incarceration; what we thought about was that we wanted to live in God's kingdom, that we wanted to live in community, that we wanted to make our lives to matter, always, from the very beginning. AB: T his was the late 70s, and at that time, mass incarceration was NB: No. AB: Just started to take off. NB: No.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 15 AB: So it was not the issue. NB: But we didn't know. AB: The issue that we were primarily concerned about and this flowed from an ethics profe ssor, Glen Stassen, who is the son of Herald Stassen, perennial Minnesota presidential candidate NB: Republican. AB: But he had graduated from Duke with a degree in physics and then he went into ethics. So, he was really into the nuclear power issue. NB: Yeah, yeah. AB: And there was a big generation in Madison, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville. NB: Right, right. That was our first big cause. AB: Yeah, so that was kind of but, you know NB: We joined AB: The whole Civil Rights thing had just, it was over. Nobody talked about it as a present reality, but that was the thing that I really found inspiring. I wanted to be involved in something that was like that. NB: Yeah, yeah. A movement. So, we joined Mobilization for Survival in Louisvill e, which was an anti nuclear organization, and we worked with Fellowship of Reconciliation that John just talked about, John Due, just talked about the Fellowship of Reconciliation. We worked with them a little bit. AB: And they had been involved with COR E and stimulated the first Freedom Rides back in the 40s
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 16 NB: Yeah. And they were the ones who had taught nonviolence to the Movement. AB: Yeah. And I remember Daniel Berigan, the radical Catholic priest, coming and speaking at Seminary. Although it wa s a Southern Baptist school, it had this radical wing. I mean, it sort of tolerated these weirdos out here. And Glen Stassen was part of that. He was kind of a . clueless optimist, idealist NB: On the spectrum. AB: figure. He wasn't socially aware, w hich allowed him to do this stuff. Because he had n't been socially aware; he was an egghead. He wouldn't have done this stuff. NB: No. He didn't know, he didn't realize about he didn't understand about powers and principalities. AB: But he was very much in to nonviolent spirituality and so he would talk about Gandhi and talk about Dr. King. NB: And Simplified Living. AB: Yeah, and so that yeah, the smallest, beautiful kind of stuff. NB: Yeah, the Simplified Living Movement was part and another movement that was right then and there was the Women's Movement. And so, I entered Seminary, but I got invited to leave on several occasions because, allow women to the Divinity program, the pastoral preparation program, and I was very unwelcome there. I was called int o the Dean's Office a couple of times and it was suggested that I should change . change majors to Religious Education, which was the woman's major. But then we went as co pastors to the Baptist Union of Western Canada, and we didn't know the systems w e were getting into. We
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 17 thought that this meant that we were going to go as equals, but when we got there, they made it very clear they were just kidding ; they just said yes to our co pastor thing so that they could get Alan. So my name was never on any c h eck. I'm not recorded as having any pension; I don't exist in the records. I didn't realize that at the time, but I wasn't twenty five. I mean, I didn't know anything. AB: We had no idea of the kind of subculture that we were entering into. NB: No. AB: And we had no idea of the kind of religious subculture in the South that we had come out of, because what we were exposed to, the professors that taught us that we chose you know, we had sort of self selected a totally unrepresentative spirituality that was c ompletely atypical for Southern seminary and we didn't know what conservative Baptists in Western Canada were like. NB: No, no. No. AB: We were completely oblivious. NB: And I had been in my I was my father's daughter. I was listening to his teaching. My f ather was . he was a blend of country Methodism and then baptized as Southern Baptist, but he wasn't ever bound by any dogma, because he was a Biblical scholar. So, he was always looking for he was always looking for the biblical way and the Jesus way, and that's the way he taught us. So, I didn't realize that you had to be bound by the dogma, and the dogma was very, very bureaucratic. Because the church is very much a microcosm of a culture at large, with the power structures and the resistance to any kind of empowerment. Because that box, that dogma box, is what keeps everybody in their place. It's
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 18 not economically, but also socially mostly socially in the church. But we didn't know what we were getting into. It's like we grew into this, and so any tim e we had disempowerment and oppression in our face, we responded to that. But we weren't seeking it out. You know? We're talking about small town Baptist churches. T: How did you decide to respond to that once you figured out that they were enforcing gende r inequality on your relationship? AB: Well, one thing was that they weren't ready, they said, to ordain Nancy. So I wouldn't put my name in for ordination. NB: Yeah. AB: So we didn't get ordained until we moved down to NB: Colorado. AB: Colorado, and we were ordained by the American Baptist churches. Which, again NB: We thought, yeah. We thought Alan refused to be ordained. When they refused to ordain me in Canada, because they weren't ready and we're talking 1981, 1980 . AB: Yeah, 1980 to 1986, ba sically. NB: Well, in 1981 they refused to ordain me. And they didn't tell me, by the way. You know that all this conversation you know, when we talk about this, all this conversation happened to you. I was not in any of these conversations. This was all a bout me. No one ever said to me, we're not ready to orda in you. They told Alan. Do you know that? That this conversation that you tell me all came from
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 19 you to me. I never had a conversation directly with any of these bureaucrats in the denomination. And I was not empowered enough to take it on. T: Empowered enough personally? NB: Personally. Because I didn't know how to negotiate. I had never been taught how to negotiate. I knew how to love. AB: Mm hm. In Canada, there had been in the 1960s all of the, yo u know. Well, in the late 40s and 50s everybody came back from the war and they wanted to settle down and have conventional, mainstream kind of religion. So, everybody the majority of people moved into either the Anglican church, which was sort of the official church of Canada, or the United Church of Canada, which was created in 1925, a very ecumenical blend of different denominations, and was becoming progressively more liberal. Our little denomination sort of saw itself as a bridge denomination between the more fundamentalist, sect like denominations, and this kind of big tent, liberal, United Church of Canada. But it was decided in the early 1980s that it was going to pretty much close itself off from the liberal world and move in the direction of the fundamentalist groups. So, we didn't fit into that, and that's really what happened. NB: The way I dealt with it was because I didn't know how to negotiate and we didn't really have . we were so isolated, we were in these rural Alberta, British Columbia, churches, so there was nobody to build an alliance with. AB: Yeah. NB: There were some women out there, but we weren't together. So, I basically didn't attempt to continue. I stayed at home. I had three babies. The Canadian
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 20 government makes that possible, for women to stay at home. They have baby allowances. There's a real support system for mothers in Canada, and, of course, you have universal healthcare. The nurse would come to our house when we were way out in the country, when Amos was born. T he nurse was the Royal of Victorian AB: Victorian Order of Nurses. NB: Yeah. Very British kind of thing. She came out to our house and checked me and checked Amos and did all these tests, and it was all . there were no bills. We got monthly checks for each child, per child. A lot of support. So we didn't have much income but we had healthcare. So, if you have healthcare, you really don't have to have much income. So, I just stayed at home for several years and brewed. You know? I was brewing. You know there's a lot to be said for times off. AB: It's like a tea bag in hot water. NB: Yeah. For times of I can't think of the right word. AB: Gestation? NB: Yeah. There are times, there are times for action and there are times for contemplation. So I did a l ot of contemplation. T: Well, how did you reach that moment? NB: The moment of T: Of self empowerment. NB: . I can't say there was a moment.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 21 AB: It wasn't like there was a Buddhist moment of Enlightenment, where the light came on. NB: No. It was a ris ing to occasions. AB: Mm hm. NB: A rising to occasions, becoming who I am. AB: What we were trying to do is find a way of living an authentic faith that mattered, was engaged with injustice and trying to bring on the kingdom of God, as we understood it. NB : Yes. As far as action AB: We didn't know how to make that happen within the conventional structures of organized religion. NB: No. As far as taking action, the big action that I took that said, I am going to live my own life, we are going to build our o wn life, we're not going to wait to be funded, was when we packed up and moved out of our home in Derby and moved to Tulia, with Alan having no job. I mean, we had never had two jobs. We've always lived really, really on the edge of poverty. We were always eligible for food well, I didn't ever get food stamps, but we were eligible, as far as our income, for free lunches for the kids and all that stuff because of our income. When we decided we weren't going to play this game; we weren't even going to try, an ymore, to play this game of fitting in and going through the ranks, we were going to move to a small town where there was really no opportunity. We were going to put our kids one of the things about moving to Tulia was, you may say that small towns are eve n more racist, but small towns are totally integrated.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 22 There's just one school. You don't have neighborhoods. The real truth is that, in cities, everything is segregated because the neighborhoods are segregated. In a small town, doesn't matter if you live on this street or that street, you still go to the same one elementary school. So, it was totally integrated. Our kids we were moving our kids from a very segregated to a very integrated community, from a majority Hispanic community, from a white community to a majority Hispanic by now community in the while we were in Tulia, the schools became majority Hispanic. AB: Yeah. NB: It didn't start out totally majority, but it was moving that direction. While we were there AB: Now it is. NB: Now, yeah. It's tota lly, yeah. That was the move that said, we're going to live our own lives. AB: The novel that I was working on that Nancy r eferred to earlier was set in Louisville Kentucky, and the heroes, to the extent he was a hero, was a pastor who was very unhappy. H e was in a very mainline, liberal, kind of middle America church. He was very unhappy with his lot in life. So, he rented to two women, one of whom was the daughter of a black Baptist pastor and the other was a stripper. Of course, I had to figure out ways of getting him into the strip joint and maki ng all of this sound reasonable, which wasn't all that difficult when I put my mind into it. The book was called Stirring up the Stars and it was about the interaction of these worlds, the worlds and collisions type of thing. But what I
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 23 was doing through the novel, I realize now, was I was trying to come to grips with the way the sinner saint division and all of this stuff. So, when we got involved in the Tulia fight, I kind of dropped the book. Well, there was s ome overlap for a period of time; I was working on both. But, more and more, I was moving away from working on the theoretical story and the real life narrative took over, which was much more compelling. NB: Yeah. Alan did a lot of research in the early da ys. Well, he continues to do research because he loves to do research. There isn't an end to this story. There's not yet a culminating moment. Every moment is a combination of the work we've done before. So, now, we're movi ng into immigration issues, and AB: Which was another issue that was always sort of there, but we hadn't really maybe we didn't have the emotional luxury of r eally opening ourselves to it until now? I don't know. NB: Yeah, yeah. And part of that Vanessa. I know. Part of that, moving to that, is that, while we were in Tulia, people kept dropping in and living with us. So, I always wanted six children. So we joked we always had six children. Lydia, our daughter, jokes to people, we always had people living with us, so when she was looking for a husband, she would say, now, you understand: here's the story. If I group of children drop in our house and knock on the door and say, we're going to live here, how do you respond to that? If a man's freaked out, then he's not a candidate for marriag e for Lydia, because she grew up with people dropping into our house. Always. When we were in Medicine Hat Alberta, our first pastorate . a kid was on a motorcycle heading to Calgary from Nova Scotia and he ran out
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 24 of gas in Medicine Hat and he called the Baptist parsonage, that was our house, and ended up living with us for a year. You know, he ran out of gas and he lived with us for a year. Alan's sister came and lived with us for about six months. Oh, when the guy's brother and friend got out of pri son in Nova Scotia, they came and lived with us the guy who'd lived with us for a year. His brother and friend came and lived with us, it was kind of creepy Then, when we moved to Tulia well, when we were in Peachland, a neighbor dropped in and lived with us for a year, sixteen year old girl. But then, when we moved to Tulia, we started having kids living with us. I mean, my students would live with us. I don't know, they just would come, and there they would be. In the Movement, in the Tulia Movement, we had a concert. We were taking a bunch of kids, a busload of kids, to a church in Lubbock to sing and to try to raise funds. Of course, we didn't even raise enough funds for the gas, but it was a community building activity. So, we were going door to door f inding children. We knocked on a door; this old, old man answered. What was his name? That's okay, it'll come. These two little girls were living with him; we assumed he was their grandfather, their great grandfather, Mr. Burns. So I said, we would like to take the little girls to sing, we're going to go to Lubbock and do a concert. What we would do is, then we would rehearse on the way, because it was an hour drive, hour and a half drive to Lubbock. So, we would have all that time to rehearse our singing, and we did songs. AB: I'd get out my guitar, and . NB: We taught the kids Freedom Songs. They didn't know anything about Freedom Songs. He was very old, so I thought, you know, we're going to be back late.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 25 AB: He was eighty two. NB: So I said, if you want to, if it's going to be too late when we get back the next night, the girls can spend the night with us and then we'll bring them back the next day. Before I had those words out of my mouth, the two little girls, who were five and six, were standing i n front of me, each with a paper bag packed with their clothes. They were ready. They hadn't ever met me. Nobody in this room the old man, Mr. Burns, nor had Kayla or LaKendra, they had never seen me or met me, but they were standing right there, one on ea ch knee, with their little paper bags rgocery bags ready to go to my house, to stay with me. It was for the it wasn't for now. It was a couple of nights. But they were ready to go, they wanted to go now with me. AB: Both their mother and her partner and NB: Yeah. Everybody was in prison. AB: Almost everybody they knew had been locked up. NB: Yeah. We found out that actually, this young man was Kayla's father, the younger one's father, and their mother and Kayla's mother was also LaKendra's mother. So, the y came and they lived with us, they never went home. Mr. Burns would come and visit them sometimes and bring candy or take them to the store for candy, so they lived with us for a while, and then we discovered that they had a brother who was just staying o n people's floors. Because his mom and dad had been in prison; he had the same mama, but his dad had been in prison since he was born. So, Laramie came to live with us as well. He stayed for a while, but he couldn't stay long, because he just couldn't stay with one family.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 26 He couldn't come in for dinner, he couldn't have a bedtime. He was already in junior high, and he had spent his life on the streets, and he just couldn't not be on the streets. It was very, very sad because we told him, if he could stay w ith us, we would make sure he could go to college, but he couldn't stay. He said, couldn't I just I said, you have to follow the house rules if you stay here, that's the one thing, and that means you have to come home for supper. You have to be home by nin e. I have to know where you are. He said, well, couldn't I just stay as a guest and not stay by the family rules? I said, no, a guest stays for three nights, not for three years. So he left. AB: It wasn't that he couldn't. NB: He couldn't. AB: It wasn't th at he wouldn't, he couldn't. He had been on the streets too long, and his life NB: Yeah. But not even getting to the story of Vanessa, that moves from this story. They stayed with us until their mother got out of prison and then they continued to stay wit h us because she would have to go and she had her lifestyle and it was she would say she'll come get them next weekend and then she wouldn't, and then the next weekend, so they were so, after their mother got out of prison, they were in constant turmoil, a s were we, because by now these were my babies and she was going to take my babies away from me, but they were hers. So it went on for months and months, where she would promise she was going to come take them and we would get them all ready and then she w ouldn't. Finally she came when I wasn't home and took them, you know, just sort of out
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 27 from under me. Pretty soon, they were learning how to steal cigarettes from her. But anyway, after that, people noticed that people were living with us, and so now my st udents one of my students came to live with me for, she was supposed to live with me for a couple of weeks while her mother was out of town, went to Mexico for medical treatment, and that turned into about six weeks. Then, another one of the students, one of my students at Tulia High School .. came to live with us. And she I thought this was my idea, but I found out later she had already been telling people for several months that she was going to go live with Mrs. Bean. So, she worked so that I invited h er, and she lived with us for two years. Graduated from high school. And she was an undocumented an undocumented alien. She had come to visit relatives when she was fourteen and, with the intention of staying, so she could stay for school and she had been going to school. For the last two years, she lived with us. She would have kept living with us, but we moved out from under her. We moved to Arlington, so she I kept wanting her, you know, I said, you have to go to college, you have to go to college, you h ave to start in the summer, you can't wait till fall, because who knows what will happen in the summer if you wait? So she finally did go to college. Her child is my only grandchild. [Laughter] Anyway, so then we started understanding more about that undoc umented the state of undocumented, because she would have parties and all of her . we had her sixteen birthday party at our house; huge, huge affair. AB: After we were excommunicated from Tulia's Anglo society NB: Oh, yeah, we had lots
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 28 AB: Most of ou r social life was in the Hispanic community, oddly enough. NB: Yeah. Well, we lost Mr. Freddy Brookins, one of the activisits in the Tulia fight, said, you know, you've traded in your white card. Well, we did trade in our white card, but we never got a bla ck card. We were never invited into the black community. There was really a the black community in Tulia was so fragmented that there really wasn't a community to be invited into. But we were invited into the Hispanic community. And so, we were no longer i nvited to any of the white functions, but we got invited to graduations and quinceaeras, and AB: And we did a lot of activism in the Hispanic community. NB: Yes, yeah. AB: We got two young boys out of prison who had been charged in some very bogus circum stances. One of them was mentally NB: Like stealing a AB: Mentally retarded. NB: I think it was stealing a McDonald's toy out of somebody's garage. And he was mentally retarded. I mean, he was in high school, but he was really mentally retarded, and he h ad evidently gone in and stolen a McDonald's toy out of somebody's garage, and so he was in prison. AB: So we managed to get them out and reunify their families. NB: Just by being really loud. AB: Then, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission did a NB: Gr aduation raid.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 29 AB: Graduation Night raid on a Hispanic family. They were having their typical Mexican celebration. NB: And this was the first person in their family who had ever graduated from high school, so they were having a multi family, generational p arty, barbeque in the backyard, and everybody was invited. Lots of other high school students were there, and AB: They used to hire people, many of whom were Hispanic, who were physically large. So, a lot of these guys that came into the yard were over si x foot fou r and beefy, like two hundred and eighty pounds, and very intimidating. There was black NB: Okay, the TABC. He's talking about what they did was a raid. They actually b busted into the party and had everybody on their knees with their guns, and talking about six year old girls and mamas and babies and raided the party because they were serving alcohol to minors. But this isn't this is a family. They had no search warrant. Also, in Texas, you're actually allowed to serve your children alcohol if y ou are the parent and you consent, you're allowed to serve it to them if you're there. But, anyway, they burst in, and we were able to overturn that and actually change the because Alan and Gary Gardner were so loud and published everything all over the pl ace. AB: We knew we had our strategy down now. We got the story together. We interviewed about twenty five people, put their stories into a timeline, and then told the story through their eyes in a very graphic kind of way. Then published this in independe nt newspapers here and there, mostly in Spanish and English
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 30 versions. Eventually, they sent six bureaucrats from Austin up from a meeting and we packed Jim and NB: They came to the meeting to tell us the way the cow eats the cabbage. They were going to te ll us why they could do whatever they want, and why they didn't have to have a search and seizure. Why they didn't have to search warrant and why it was so evil that there was underage drinking and all this stuff. They started lecturing to this hall, and t he mother stood up Lydia was translating. They were speaking in English. AB: Our daughter, Lydia, who is fluent in Spanish. NB: So, our daughter was translating to some people, because they were speaking in English to these people who are mainly Spanish sp eaking. So, our daughter was translating, and her translation went something like, he's telling us that he's going to tell us what to do and that we're not going to have a voice. So, actually, I went up to one of the organizers and I said, you either liste n to us or we're all walking out. So, one of the organizers went up to the TACB and told him that we're fixing to walk out. So then, they stopped their lectures and then we started talking. AB: The chief administrator of the TACB was there, Rolando Garza. And he was a good hearted guy, and NB: You know, these are guys in black suits and cowboy hats, right? And they march in from Austin. AB: Cowboy boots. But what it eventually, it boiled down to a conversation in Spanish between the mother NB: Who had bee n arrested.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 31 AB: Yeah. And this administrator. Lydia was giving me the translation, and basically what she said, how dare you send these big men into my backyard? Like, people who have no morals. Break into somebody's house to interrupt our gathering and to spoil the graduation of our first child who's ever graduated from high school. How dare you do this? And, as a result of that meeting, they ended up firing two of the officers and they completely rewrote their search and seizure policy statewide. NB: Yes. AB: That really gave us NB: Sense of empowerment. Now, we can make a difference. AB: Yeah. We understood the power of story, getting the story together and giving people a voice. Because we didn't do the talking for them, they did their own talking. NB : But Alan gathered the stories. AB: But we put them in a position where they had a narrative. They taught us the story, and we NB: Taught it back. AB: Put it all together and taught it back to them. It was in that conversation that the narrative emerged. NB: One of the things this isn't a personal story, but this is where our transition is is that, we learned that disempowered people often don't know how to tell a story. They have no sense of chronology. By the way, the research the educational research b ears this out, that underclass people don't have
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 32 chronology. This is a really dangerous place to be. If you can't tell a story, you have no voice. So, we would talk to the people in Tulia, interview them and the Rosales family, they wouldn't tell you a sto ry. They would tell you incidents from all over their life, that somehow AB: And in their minds, it all happened; it was all undifferentiated experience. They weren't thinking one thing after another. NB: So the role that Alan had, the role that Alan had, was in listening and writing down every incident and then talking to more people so he could finally get it into a chronology. So you're taking all this scattering it's like a shot. AB: Well, even if you NB: And he takes it and he was able to chronologi ze it and find out what the common stories were. He did this with the only, by the time we had the Rosales raid, he had learned this as a strategy. It was an accidental thing that he had to do in Tulia. AB: A good example of this is a couple nights ago, a few nights ago, we were visiting with one of the families in Church Point, Louisiana, where we were able to overthrow this federal drug bust NB: Conspiracy charges. AB: Federal narcotics conspiracy case after the family, a mother and three of her sons, ha d spent three months locked up. Bu t anyway, the mother, a few nights ago, was just kind of free associating, talking about her experiences and how painful it was to be the mother of three or four young men who were always being stopped by the police, alway s being hassled, always being beaten up in
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 33 the street. But because I had spent so much time going over their story, I understood how everything fit together, what happened first, what happened but she was going things that happened three years, things were going thirteen years ago, and bouncing around indiscriminately, bringing up events. In her mind, it was all just part of the history that she had lived. But she was not thinking of one thing leading to another. She was not discriminating between the vario us official actors. They were all just sort of an amalgam or a single personality who was expressing himself through various actors in different ways at different times. So I could say, okay, now she's talking about this, now she's talking about that, now she's talking about this. NB: But if she was talking to a lawyer, the lawyer would just go, plop. Because lawyers don't [Break in recording] NB: Lawyers don't put together a story. Lawyers just look for loopholes. They're just looking for a legal thing. T hat's where we discovered that we have a unique role, in that we Alan, as a pastor, listens to the whole story, puts it in a chronological narrative that is understandable to middle class people, and then teaches that story back to the people. That teachin g it back to the people you know, when people come in and say, you have to let the grassroots organize themselves, people who have no ability to tell their story cannot organize themselves. AB: Fannie Lou Hamer was a genius. There aren't very many of her. NB: Yeah. So our role as whitey has been to hear the story, put it in a narrative that is decipherable to power, and teach it back.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 34 AB: Yeah. And even with Fannie Lou Hamer, you know, there was a lot of her interactions with people like Anelle Ponder and S eptima Clark, so, she learned a lot from other people. Back in the 60s, and in our experience, it's been that give and take between the people who do have the training and the academic ability to put things into a package and the p eople who have actual ly lived t his stuff. It's the combination of the two that's so powerful. NB: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. T: When was the raid and how long was your involvement in that? AB: It would have been around 2002, 2003. In that range. NB: Wasn't it the same graduation as Ada m's? Was it the same graduation as Adam's graduation? AB: Possibly, I can't remember. NB: I don't remember that, either. But, as far as resolution, this happened fast the resolution to that happened fast. It was a matter of months, wasn't it? AB: Yeah. It might have even been in 2000 and . I remember we were coming back from a rally that we did in Lubbock. NB: We were still okay, we were still working on Tulia. Tulia took a long, long, long time to unravel. Five years. We worked on Tulia five years, and that was very, very painful. But, in the meantime, our reputation got out and people started calling; all the time, people started calling. So Alan was doing stuff; Alan and Gary Gardner and my father see, I was, my role was basically paying the bills. I had the job. During this time, Alan was there was no income. As a matter of
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 35 fact, most of the time you know, we've been in this work now for thirteen years. There's just no income in it. AB: Right. Well, we would have meetings in the early days, we'd have meetings in our home every Sunday night. Whenever Annette, see, of course, would shape that event, and do all of the hospitality, and then whenever we traveled with people, Nancy would be the organizer and the disciplinarian and the NB: For the children a nd I. AB: And she'd take care of all the logistics because that's her gift. NB: Well, we did a lot of traveling. I didn't do as much traveling as Alan and Gary Gardner and my parents, because, like I said, I had to keep a job. AB: Right. Then, after Tulia was over, more and more it became just me and everybody was there to support me. But everyone you know, I travelled with Nancy or I'd travel with our daughter Lydia or travel with Nancy's father, Charles. I'd always try to take people with me when I could And it was always different people. Sometimes, it was folks from our board. NB: Yeah. T: So, you've mentioned a lot and you read a lot about the Civil Rights Movement. Clergypeople were very important and integral in shaping the philosophy of that in the 60s. How did that shape your own philosophy and your own spirituality and understanding of Christianity? And how has how you apply it changed since the 60s? NB: Okay. In the 60s, we were children. So, when John talks about the Civil Rights Mov ement
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 36 T: It's a historical memory. NB: It's a historical thing for me. But I remember seeing my father crying and, when Martin Luther King was assassinated. I remember talking to classmates now, this is, I' m at this point, in seventh grade. So, I am a chi ld. And so I talk to a friend, we're walking down the street, listening to bubble gum music . and talking about how horrible this is. And my friend says, well, it's a good thing he's dead. He was a Communist. See, I didn't know that that existed, that feeling. Except I did know that, when we went to visit our family in Tulia, people used ugly words that made me cry. But the Civil Rights Movement totally informs our faith and our faith totally informs our Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement was a faith movement. AB: Yeah. For me, personally, my father grew up in Wayburn, Saskkatchewan, in the heart and depth of the Depression in the 1930s. A guy named Tommy Douglas, who had just graduated with a Master degree in Sociology from the University of Chicago after getting his divinity degree earlier came up from Chicago to Wayburn to be their pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Wayburn. He started organizing because he was a sociologist, and he was you know, very much imbibed all this stuff. He was a Socialist, a very committed Socialist, and always called himself that. NB: In Canada, you were allowed to call yourself a Socialist. AB: Eventually, Tommy Douglas got so politically active that the denominational officials told him to pick a lane; you k now, be a pastor or be a politician. He decided that he was going to be a politician, and so he ran for premier of
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 37 Saskatchewan and won, and then started this new party called the New Democratic Party, eventually. So, that influenced my father and influenc ed me in very profound ways. NB: Yes. The Civil Rights Movement for me is not a historical thing. Unidentified female: I know this is a B&B, but if you all don't check out, we're just trying to [inaudible 1:11:22] AB: Yeah. We're going to be checking out. Unidentified female: Okay. NB: It's just morphing, and I think a lot of people don't understand that obviously, the people here do understand that the new Civil Rights Movement is about immigration and incarceration and defunding of education and . but it's the same Civil, it's the same Movement. And now, it's becoming even clearer with the Disenfranchising Movement, so I think even the old time Civil Rights organizers are starting to see. Because I think, a few years ago, they were talking about the Ci vil Rights Movement as if it's something they did in the 60s. AB: Yeah. Another thing that I'm aware of, looking back, is that the Civil Rights Movement came to me through a vehicle of music: Peter, Paul, and Mary, who were, again, reflecting the Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan kind of protest song. Woody Guthrie, that whole tradition was sort very much reflected in the popular music and I really liked that kind of music when I was a kid. NB: Mm hm, mm hm. Yeah, yeah.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 38 AB: I liked the guitars and the close harmon ies and the folk kind of music that was really popular in the early 60s. It didn't last long, but it was very influential on me. And then, of course, when in 1964 when we moved from this little tiny mining community in the Northwest Territories of Cana da down to Edmonton, where they actually had television. I didn't have television until eleven years old. NB: That's something that Alan and I have in common by the way, and that I really recommend for people in raising their children. Neither of us grew up with a television. We didn't grow up with television because we didn't have any money, and Alan didn't grow up with television because there was no television that far north. AB: But when I got down to John Kennedy was assassinated while we were still i n Yellow Knife, and then when we came down to Edmonton, it was just after the March of Washington, I Have a Dream speech, and Dr. King was on the television all the time. He'd be preaching and I'd see the call and response kind of dynamic in those religiou s services, and that just you know, I'd get really excited. That was the only kind of Protestant Christianity that ever really got to me. I remember once, after we were married this was, of course, much later I had a job while Nancy was still finishing up at the Seminary, delivering coffins and caskets, and I'd drive thro ugh rural Kentucky and Indiana delivering coffins and caskets at funeral departments. But I used to take a little tape recorder along and play tapes, and one of them was Martin Luther King. There was one tape that I listened to where he was sort of doing the same thing, Letter from the Birmingham Jail to the Pastors, kind of very dry and academic, and then he
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 39 eventually I flipped it over and it was one of these meetings during the Civil Righ ts Movement. And I started to weep uncontrollably. And I had to pull over the side of the road because I couldn't see. And my chest was heaving. Now, this was not I mean, I get emotional sometimes when I'm talking about these things. It's about the only th ing that gets to me emotionally. And I started to realize that, you know, that this is really where the Christian faith speaks to me, is through this justice thing and the kingdom of God merging with the Civil Rights vision. So, the theology of, sort of, t he social gospel tradition as it was interpreted by the black church during the Civil Rights era, this liberation theology, is our theology. NB: Yeah. It is, actually. Liberation theology is our theology, and narrative. Both of us are propelled by the comm ission that the spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the a cceptable year of the Lord. So, I mean, that's something that Alan our marriage is based on that scripture, and when we founded Friends of Justice, we sat in our living room. Friends it was music. We always, music was always the center of everything, but w e founded Friends of Justice and we tossed around names with Thelma AB: Johnson. NB: Thelma Johnson was there and she was kind of the auntie of the black community. And Freddie Brookins was there, and his son was caught up in the sting, and they were the people who were really core in the black community, who were core in our movement. We said, who are we? It was justice, is the
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 40 word, and friends, is the word. So we say, are we Friends of Justice? Friends for Justice? So I think Thelma said, it's Friends o f Justice. So we were ready to go to Austin, so I had us made our t shirts, that Friends of Justice, and our logo was, do justice, love mercy, walk humbly, because the other scripture which propels us is AB: Micah 6:8. NB: Micah 6:8. He has shown the yeo man what is good and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Anything else than those anything else but to do justice and love mercy and to walk humbly is just bullshit. There's nothing else. The re's nothing else in faith, there's nothing else that matters, and AB: And the strangest thing is that mainstream Evangelical Christianity is the obverse of that. You know? NB: Yeah. AB: It is the denial of compassion, and it has been suspicious of anybod y who uses freedom, justice, liberty language is suspect. NB: We have a little group that meets in our house. It's the most un . you wouldn't expect this to be the group. Every week, I say, they're never coming back, Alan. This little group of middle class white people meeting in our house on every Monday night, and we call ourself the Mustard Seed Conspiracy. I thought that that title alone would keep them away, but: we have a Mustard Seed Conspiracy and we are studying the gospel parallels. You know, churches don't talk about they don't read the gospels. They don't read the words of Jesus, because that's
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 41 really, really revolutionary shit. So we read it, we study it every Monday night, and we talk the question is, and I keep bringing this back to the q uestion. The question is, what does this mean for the choices I make personally? What does this mean for the choices I make professionally, civilly? What does this mean for the ways that the policies, civic policies that we promote, what do these words mea n? AB: And what does this mean for the church? NB: And what does this mean for the church? And we keep asking the question, and these middle class people in Arlington, Texas who are very conservative Arlington is really, really conservative keep coming bac k, and I keep thinking, what is growing in their hearts that they keep coming back? I mean, don't I say every week, they're not coming back. AB: Mm hm. And I think that, too. NB: And we've been doing this actually, we've been doing this for two years. AB: One of these Republican guys is my treasurer right now. NB: Yeah, he's a treasurer on our board. He doesn't have much to treasure right now. AB: [Laughter] Well, that's right. NB: But . if the spirit of the Lord is upon us, that's a grandiose claim, is n't it? But, if we don't claim that the spirit of the Lord is upon us . AB: That's why the mustard seed idea because Jesus says, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that is the smallest of all seeds, and yet grows into a large plant. NB: Yeah.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 42 AB : So, right now, we're at the small seed stage, which is generally NB: Yeah. And we may always stay at the small seed stage. AB: So it's a matter of hope than anything else. So, you know, this is when I talk to young people, often, they have some passing relationship with Christianity, but then they also have this strong interest in justice, and they don't have any idea of how to integrate the religious tradition that they've grown up in such as it is, in many cases, it's pretty sketchy with this impulse t o work for justice. Putting those two together doesn't happen very much. I mean, it does in sermons in liberal churches, but there's very little concrete NB: But there's no application, there's no application. Because it's when you get to application and this is what happened in our preaching; we were preaching to ourselves. You know, all this time in preparation, we're preaching to ourselves, and what does that mean to how we live our lives? It's a dangerous thing to say, what does that mean to how you li ve your life? And I don't know that I want to know I mean, I don't know that I'm ready to take the next step. T: Can you explain that to me? NB: Well, I want a retirement. I want to have some financial security. I want Alan to have a pension, too, and I w ant him to have a salary. And Jesus says, if you want to follow me, you sell everything you have. AB: Give it to the poor. NB: Now, that's not very subtle. AB: [Laughter]
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 43 NB: That's just not very subtle. And how long can you wiggle around that? I intend to wiggle around that. You know, I intend to wiggle around that. AB: We like the idea of spiritual poverty so long as we get to keep our shit. NB: Yeah, yeah. You know, every few months I say to Alan, okay, this is it. You've got three more months. You've go t till January this is what I said last time. You got till January to raise a salary. Not going to put up with this anymore. You've got to have a salary. I'm not going to if the society doesn't value the work you do well enough to give funding because all these progressive organizations, we can never get any funding so, every few months, I give him an ultimatum and he throws a little hissy and . and then I come to something like this and I go, oh, we can live without the salary, you know? This is real s tuff, this is real work, and it matters. And I see y'all y'all don't have a salary. You know, if you're not a radical when you're in college, then there's no use. [Laughter] You got to be a radical when you're in college. The question is, can you hold onto it, you know? T: Yeah. NB: I don't know what I mean by it. I don't know what I mean, because, can we afford to know what it means? T: That's why the government and life insurance companies can say, you can play by my rules, you know? NB: Yes. I wish have another question, have another question, because I'm just rambling. T: No, I love this. I mean, I was expecting a complicated philosophical continuity in change between the theories of religion that motivate y'all in the twenty first
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 44 century and then the C ivil Rights in the 1960s, but it seems like what you're saying is that you just can't avoid the Gospels, period, and that's what bureaucratic churches have been doing. NB: It's a yes, yes. The Gospel is compelling. That's why I said that and I just, I had never said this before. That's why I realized, while I'm talking to you, is that what is key here, that the key philosophy is what I just quoted you, but the spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me. This is what Jesus Jesus quoted this fr om Isaiah. One of the most beautiful songs that Alan I don't know if you know, Alan's an incredible, he's my favori te poet and songwriter. One of the most beautiful songs he wrote, has ever written and I think it was early, early he wrote it was "Isaiah an d the Temple." And being called, being sent, and Isaiah says he goes into the temple and the te mple is filled with smoke. Alan, quote it here. Quote your song. AB: Okay. And spirit died within me, for my lips were twisted; lips that gripped deception like the people round me. While all the dragon angels which is what seraphim are sing their song forever. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord, high almighty Then flew a dragon angel, and a glowing coal was lifted from the altar, bright with burning. To my lips he pre ssed it. He said, your crime is lifted. Then, from these lips of wonder came the words of wonder. Then, in words of whisper came the words of wonder. Oh Lord, God almighty, here am I, send me. NB: So I want it's so inspiring to see students here, because I think that these students are saying even though they may not have the scriptural words, they may not know the stories --they're saying, here am I, send me.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 45 T: Even though we don't know what to do. [Laughter] NB: No. And none of us know what to do. What w e do is respond in compassion .We try to respond in faithfulness to whatever situation we're in, and we're not seeking the situation. Alan doesn't ever, ever put himself into a situation. We only respond when the family begs and begs, because there are too many situations. I mean, there's too many. AB: Right. Those who want to dedicate themselves to public service will go into social work, in which case they end up doing paperwork and being frustrated and underpaid, or they'll go into the law, in which case they discover the only way that they can make money is NB: Working for the man. AB: Servicing fatcats. Or, they will go into the nonprofit world, where they'll end up being exploited and paid crummy salaries. NB: Used. AB: And the only way they can make any money is to become Executive Director of an established organization, in which case they spend all of their time schmoozing with people with money so that they can fund their operation. And have very little time left over for any actual engagement with hurting people. NB: Or with corrupt systems. AB: So what I mean I don't want to be overly pessimistic, but there is a real problem . with the left right now. I mean, there just aren't a lot of progressive options that are stimulating. NB: Real.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 46 AB: I think one of the things that's so impressive about the Civil Rights Movement is how many young people, black and white, came streaming into this movement. Even like, for instance, during the Freedom Ride. Everybody was dumping on these people, and Harry Tr uman, the ex president, was calling them making derogatory comments about the Freedom Riders. Nobody had a good word to say about them; they were getting terrible press, just making everybody upset, frustrating everybody. And yet, something was happening, and there was this thirst for experience and justice, and being part of something bigger than themselves. It drew thousands and thousands of these young people, who were willing to go to prison. There's nothing like that now. T: Maybe it gets back to what Miss Nancy was saying about privilege. These corporations and bureaucracies enforce our privilege and NB: Co opt your passion. T: Yeah. Pet your white privilege and maybe what you were saying about the scriptures. AB: Yep. Because, if t here's money out t here, through the Ford Foundation who have funded us public welfare foundation. NB: For a minute, they funded us for justice a minute. AB: But W.K. Kellogg Foundation, whatever it is: if there's lots of money, it comes from a wealthy person. And that doesn 't mean that the wealthy person who is at the heart of the largesse is necessarily cynical or ignorant or insincere. They probably are trying to make the world a better place with their big bucks, but it does mean that they're disconnected from the reality and so they are going to
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 47 determine how you know, they're going to say, these strategies are acceptable us; these strategies are not. It gets back to what we were talking about this morning, the work that basically happened here in the Mississippi Delta w as unfunded, largely. That doesn't mean that nobody was getting any money, but it does mean that people were sleeping on people's floors and eating NB: John was on salary. John was on salary. AB: Yeah. And there were a few others. NB: Yeah. AB: But the sa laries were meager, and often, people were getting nothing. They were basically living off the folks that they were helping. NB: Yeah. One of the things that makes me feel somewhat connected is that, when I'm traveling with Alan, we . spent, the nights in Houston, we spent with my daughter's in laws they're part of the one percent in their lake home. Then, we traveled to Louisiana to minister on the Calones and we stayed in her guest room, and we stayed on a bed with dirty sheets and no pillowcases. AB: A home that probably had about a thousand square feet, built in the [inaudible 1:31:45] NB: Yeah. I wasn't very comfortable, but I felt like it was kind of a baptism, you know? And then we drove to Mississippi to stay with Lola and Archie Flowers. AB: In Winona. NB: In Winona. Curtis is on death row, their son, and Ellen is trying to work with him. He was tried six times before they could get a guilty sentence. You know, we have this thing that we think you can't be tried more than once. You can be tried
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 48 as long as you're not found not guilty, and there were all kinds of all of these things were thrown out because of . AB: It was either convictions that were overturned by the Supreme Court, usually on racial grounds, or hung juries, if they got more th an one black person on the jury. NB: Yeah. So, but anyway, we drove into Winona, and Lola Flowers had been cooking all day. And she had cornbread and butterbeans and okra with boiled in fat back and sugar and salt fried catfish and two pies. AB: A spaghett i dish. NB: Sweet tea that she made for us. And that night, we slept in her guest room, and we slept on crisp, brand new sheets. AB: Right out of the package. NB: And I almost cried, because I thought, she got these sheets so we'd have new sheets to sleep on. And I think we have . community is so essential to the Civil Rights Movement, music and community. Because we have to sleep in each other's homes and cook each other's food, and the person who has a job has to cook for the person who doesn't. I mea n, I don't know what that means. I don't know what that means, politically, but what it means in the kingdom of God is that we're all brothers and sisters. T: Do you think that, ultimately, this next generation that grew up in security can organize without it? NB: Without community? T: Without security.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 49 NB: You know, a lot of the speakers this weekend came from middle class families. They're talking about the sharecroppers who rose and that they trained, they came in here and trained. But these college stud ents and college graduates college students in the 60s came from middle class black families. Not unless you can move from privilege to community and to risk taking, to courage. You can move to courage from anywhere, but you have to be compelled. You h ave to have a calling. And, in order to have a calling, you have to be hearing. That's not always true, actually; Paul was on the Road to Damascus and he had no intention of hearing the calling, and he was struck a light. And I think, sometimes, we're just healed. AB: The Apostle Paul is like Fannie Lou Hamer. He was a religious genius. NB: Yeah, yeah. But, for most people I mean, I think you have, I think there has to be a calling and you have to have a moment in the temple, like Isaiah, where you say, he re am I, send me. And my lips are twisted like the people around me AB: Like we're all screwed up. NB: We're all in this together and we're all corrupt together. There is no purity. If you're waiting for the pure moment like John was saying, he was sleepi ng with the enemy. He was funded by the enemy. The reason they had him in there was to keep things from getting out of hand. He was being funded; he took the funding. We're all sleeping with the enemy. We are the enemy. AB: Yep. I have a feeling that if, I mean Nancy's father has a recollection of students in one of his class, he was a fellow student, one of his fellow students said professor, if present trends continue, this and that and the other will
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 50 happen. The professor looked at him and said, young m an, present trends never continue. But, if present trends continue, we will have a middle class that is more and more stretched and squeezed, and we will have a one percent that becomes more and more wealthy and arrogant and disconnected. If that happens a nd, of course, the bottom thirty or forty percent will become increasingly miserable. NB: Desolate. AB: Then, I think the issues will become a lot more NB: Stark. AB: Stark and obvious. And, middle class people will have much less inducement I mean, the s ystem just won't have as much to give them. There won't be as NB: They'll have less to lose, to take on you know. AB: Yeah, we'll run short of bread and circuses. NB: The more you have to lose, that's why Jesus said, it's harder for a rich man to enter th e kingdom of God than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, because the you got to lose I mean, I don't want to lose my shit. I have a beautiful home. AB: Yep. And, basically, the 60s generation was co opted by materialism. NB: Yeah. AB: I mean, we sold we talked about free love and justice and all of this silly stuff, but we weren't really serious about it. We wanted the picket fence, we wanted NB: The pension. AB: The American Dream just like everybody else.
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 51 NB: What I want is the pens ion. That's the part of the American Dream I want, is the pension. AB: Right. NB: And, now, at our age. At our age, we're starting to think, okay, we've done this all our lives and now it's time to retire and we haven't built that up. There isn't you know. Of course, the direction the right wing is trying to really I mean, what is Romney's claim to frame? His claim to frame is raiding pension funds. AB: Last winter, I was in Philadelphia at a conference and the Occupy Movement was down in the heart of town. So, I'd wander over there and spend time with them, just talking to them. I wasn't trying to participate. When I interviewed these people, so many of them had graduated from college and were unable to find work in anything resembling what they had trained for. And there was a tremendous amount of resentment and confusion and anger because of what was happening to them. So, I think a lot of activism springs from what is happening to me as an individual; and, when what is happening to me as an individual is fine and I've got upward mobility and I can see a secure future ahead of me, I'm probably not going to do anything to mess that up. But when I don't have the luxury of moving on up and always improving my lot; when I run into a brick wall and I realize, I' ve done everything right, I've played by the rules, I've busted my butt, I've got all these great academic credentials, and they don't translate into anything professionally: where am I going? What am I going to do? What's it all about, Alfie? And then, yo u start to get people organizing. So, then you might be able to get some real creative cohesion between the folks who are
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 52 really suffering, the genuinely poor people, and these middle class people who once had it good but their children don't. And the chil dren of privilege who don't see privilege in the future and certainly don't see it for their children, may be able to make common cause and we'll have something resembling the Civil Rights Movement again. That's but who knows what's going to happen? That' s always the excitement. NB: That's up to you. AB: [Laughter] Yeah, that's right. T: [Laughter] I don't have any other questions, but I wanted to ask if you had anything else you'd like to add. AB: Well NB: I want to put on the record what I said yesterda y, that what's one thing that's really, really important, that the progressive Left fails to emphasize, and that is family values, then the right really pushes the family values, and I think their family values are often corrupt. But teaching your children well is absolutely essential, and if we want to build a better world, then it's essential that we not raise our children in the corrupt world. And that's really, really a struggle, but I think I want to challenge young people to be very, very intentional about raising your children. To raise your children with empathy and compassion and not with privilege. It's so hard not to give your children the things that you can afford to give them, and those things will ruin them. AB: Yeah, and I think that's reall y been the project that's unified our married life together, is that we always invested ourselves in family primarily. That was our
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 53 main project. Going to school, getting a job, that stuff was secondary. So, we earned money so that we could fund our primar y project, which was building a family. It was just at the point when our children were ready to go out on their own that we sort of were making a transition into something different. But among liberals and progressives, the word family tends to evoke rais ed eyebrows, rolled eyes, you know. That's not our thing. NB: That's their thing. AB: If you're talking about family, you're a racist, and that's just code language for whatever. But the fact of the matter is that, when you don't have a secure family, and you don' t have that NB: And by secure, we don't mean financially secure. AB: No. NB: We mean the place where, the place of formation. AB: And stability. NB: Value formation and expectation. Expectation. I expect for you to be a world changer. And, of cour se, we always used faith language for that. AB: Yeah. High expectations, complete acceptance. You know, that combination, which is really produced in Halberstam's book, The Children really, I think, brings this home that almost every one of those kids th at was involved in the Civil Rights Movement had a parent, usually a mother NB: Or a grandmother. AB: That drove them and had great dreams for them, almost without exception. And so, if we don't do that for our children, we won't raise exceptional childre n. We're
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 54 going to raise technology addicted, purposeless pleasure machines, who basically exist for entertainment. NB: For themselves. AB: Then, their conversation exists of swapping popular culture references. That's not the way you build a nation, let al one a movement. So, we've got to really become critical not just of Republicans and religious people, we've also got to become critical of mainstream entertainment, the technology that gives us so many opportunities also tends to box us up and commodify us So, you know, we've got to be a lot more self critical and critical of the stuff that we're comfortable with, as well as the stuff we're not comfortable with. We got to transcend the culture war and find some third alternatives, because Republicans and D emocrats do not have a corner on the possibility market. Right now, the Democrats are basically there to keep the Republicans from doing really bad stuff. You know, we want to make it just sort of bad. There's no visionary thinking. NB: There is no common good. AB: There is no transformational NB: There is no right, transformation with the goal of common good. AB: Right. So there's got to be something beyond politics. And I think it's got to spring from a religious vision. Not necessarily a very dogmatic r eligious vision, but a sense that there's more to life than just getting ahead, you know? That there's more there are claims placed upon us, moral claims. And community. There's this vision of community, what
M FP 0 71C ; Bean ; Page 55 NB: The beloved community. The beloved communi ty. AB: Yeah. What Martin Luther King called a beloved community. NB: Yeah, yeah. AB: You know, we've lost that vision. And it's now we're very individualistic. And liberals are just as individualistic as conservatives. So, you know, that's the kind of stu ff on a more philosophical level. And, where it all came home, practically and concretely for us, was with our children. Then, we took a lot of the stuff that we were teaching our children and NB: Realized we had to do it. AB: Yeah. Started living it out. NB: Yeah. AB: And we still do that with our kids. When our family gets together, we're chattering away, wrestling with stuff, you know? It's still that way. NB: Yeah. AB: But our kids know how to talk about moral issues. NB: And lifestyle. AB: They don't necessarily embrace all the conclusions that we would like them to, but that's up to them. NB: Yeah. T: Okay. Thank you very much. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Diana Dombrowski, August 5, 2013
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