Chude Parker Allen, Social Justice Activist For Over 50 Years

11 September 2014

This past June I attended the 50th Anniversary reunion of Freedom Summer in Jackson, Mississippi, along with four other Carls: Marcia Moore from our class, Debbie Rand who started with us and graduated in ’64, John McAuliffe ’64 and Cathy Cade ’63.  At the reunion John said that Carleton had the highest percentage of participants of any college.  Eight of us went to Mississippi in 1964 to work in freedom schools, voter registration, and in the offices as safety/communications officers.  The remaining three were Mermie McKay from our class and 1964 graduates John Strand and Carl Se-Keung ‘Imiola Young.  (Carl passed away recently.)  In 1994 seven of us returned to speak at a Carleton convocation.  Carleton is planning to bring some of us back on May 15, 2015 to share our stories again.

I am a founding member of the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement.  We have organized reunions and public meetings and have a website, which includes historical documents, a history timeline and veterans’ stories.  Most of the Carls who went to Mississippi can be found under “Veterans Roll Call.”  Many of us have personal pieces; I also have poetry.  I coordinate speakers for schools and organizations and also have been speaking and doing poetry readings at conferences, organizations and colleges and schools.

Portions of my letters were published anonymously in Letters from Mississippi, Elizabeth Sutherland Martinez, ed., as was a quote from that book in the original National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.  Under the name, Chude Pam Allen, I have articles in the anthologies, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle and Finding Freedom: Memorializing the Voice of Freedom Summer.  I was featured in Doug McAdam’s book, Freedom Summer and in the award winning film, Freedom on My Mind.  There’s even a photo of me with one of the freedom school students in the recent film, Freedom Summer!

After graduating from Carleton I married Robert Allen in August.  In 1965 interracial marriages were illegal in his home state of Georgia, but not in Pennsylvania where my family lived.  Two of my father’s colleagues would not come to the wedding, nor would one of my mother’s friends.  However, most of the community and family supported us.  We moved to New York City where we participated in the anti-war movement.  I supported Robert when he refused the draft in 1966 believing the Vietnam War was both wrong and racist.  We thought he would be jailed when he was refused conscientious objector status, but he never was.  The same letter from the Selective Service that told him he’d exhausted all his appeals, told him he was too old, and they no longer wanted him.

Robert became a journalist for the radical newsweekly, The Guardian, and went to a peace conference in Europe and then to North Vietnam in 1967.  I’d begun organizing a women’s liberation group in New York City.  When he returned we traveled to various cities where he’d speak about his trip and I’d tell women about the newly developing women’s liberation movement.

In 1968 we moved to San Francisco to set up a West Coast office for The Guardian.  I continued organizing women’s liberation groups and wrote, Free Space, A Perspective on the Small Group in Women’s Liberation.  In 1970 I started “Breakaway,” a Women’s Liberation community school with six other women, two of whom are Carleton graduates, Cathy Cade ’62 and Tanis Walters from our class.  I taught anti-racism workshops for both women’s liberation groups and the YWCA and wrote “Woman Suffrage: Feminism and White Supremacy” in Reluctant Reformers: Racism and Social Reform Movements in the United States.  In 1974 I joined Union Women’s Alliance to Gain Equality and was editor of its newspaper from 1977 to 1979.  I also wrote Jean Maddox: Labor Heroine, and co-edited ORGANIZE!  A Working Woman’s Handbook and Woman Controlled Conception.  I’m in a film on the women’s movement that will be available in December, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.

Robert and I had one son in 1975 and divorced when Casey was three.  Robert and I co-parented Casey and have remained extended family.  In 1984 I married Norris Mackie who is African American, changing my first name rather than my last at that time.  Chude is an African name and I took it as an affirmation that the separation between races is not fundamental.  Our extended family includes Tanis Walters, my roommate at Carleton.  It also includes our grandson’s mother who never married our son and is of mixed heritage, Latina, Native American and white.  They co-parent their son, Xye.  Two years ago our son married; his wife is Brazilian.

When Robert and I were first married I had a job as a social worker in a foster care agency.  Even though the foster care agency would have sent me to graduate school to get an MSW, I decided I wanted to organize women.  Those two years had convinced me that the problems in our country really were systemic and would require ongoing social justice movements if there were to be significant changes.  Unfortunately that is still true.  With minimal exceptions I have earned my living in clerical and administrative work, doing my political work clear of non-profit control. 

I’ve been told that social scientists say it takes only 5% of a population to be actively involved in a social movement to effect change; the caveat is that the majority of the population has to support the movement for change to occur.  I am proud to say that I’ve been in that 5% and that I am not the only Carl active in social justice movements.

Posted In