Small World?

Community Organizing Personal Writings

New Orleans                      Kenneth Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks, the Congressionally funded housing support program, had called out of the blue and invited me to breakfast to talk about ways that we could work together.  When we said down, Kenneth said that before we started he wanted to mention that there were a couple of things that we had in common.

I said, ‘What besides the fact that our names are both Wade?’

He mentioned that one was the fact that he had worked with Maude Hurd, ACORN’s President, for years in Boston since he was from there and up until 3 years ago worked in the city.   So that was one.

The other was a longer story.  Kenneth said he was from Roxbury in Boston, which in the late 60’s was not prime real estate, but thanks to his activity in the YMCA there, he had gotten a Y scholarship to Springfield College.

Wow, I said.  I knew about that program, because one of my lifelong friends, the great Dan Russell, was a professor of Political Science there, so I had knew the Y connection.  But, that was not the connection it turned out.

It seems that at 17 as a freshman at Springfield College without thinking about it, he joined with a bunch of guys in the college Black Student Union, and followed a bunch of folks into the welfare offices who were sitting in there on the Hill.   I couldn’t believe it, but I had a feeling I knew where he was going now!

I said, ‘Don’t tell me I got you arrested in 1969?’

Indeed that was the connection.  He had been one of the almost 50 supporters arrested with me in Springfield on October 15th, 1969.  It’s a long story, and he was part of it.  I was able to thank him in another way, since the fact that the students had connections ended up allowing the Massachusetts Welfare Rights Organization’s lawyer (Steve Bardidge, by the way, and god knows where he is now?) to plead me to a lesser charge as part of the deal made with the DA to wrap all the students caught in the web down to a simple trespassing charge.

In the web of the world it turned out several years before he had been talking to Peter Wood, a long time former ACORN veteran now involved in housing in Connecticut, and mentioned he had spent time in Springfield, and Peter remarked that it was about the same time I was there and did he know me.  One thing led to another, and Peter and Kenneth realized that, yes indeed he knew me and was lucky he didn’t have a rap sheet to prove it!

It’s a small world, and I appreciated Kenneth Wade, now a big whoop, reaching out to draw the dots together and remember that the values were set deeply ‘back in the day.’           

Kenneth Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks