“The Drive to Keep the Struggle Going and Never Stop”

“The Drive to Keep the Struggle Going and Never Stop”
 
Connie Hogarth, 90, Writes to the School of Authentic Journalism’s Resistance Training Workshop in New Rochelle, New York
 
By Connie Hogarth
Founder, Westchester People’s Action Coalition
 
(More than forty years ago Connie Hogarth founded WESPAC, the Westchester People’s Action Coalition, based in White Plains, New York, where she inspired generations to get involved and change the world. The Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action at Manhattanville College is named for her. She writes this letter to participants at the April 22 Resistance Training workshop in New Rochelle, New York, sponsored by the School of Authentic Journalism and Indivisible Westchester, led by Narco News publisher Al Giordano, who, Hogarth tells the story here, met her at the age of 15.)
 
In 1974, Charlie Scheiner and I cofounded the Westchester Peoples Action Coalition (WESPAC), a peace, justice and environmental coalition, to work on so many of the same issues we face today. And then our emphasis was on stopping nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
 
We rented this dirty old loft that had been a print shop, set over the nonfunctioning movie theater in the heart of White Plains. 
 
The dirty remnants of the print shop and mess that would be our political home was daunting.  And one day, a young man, I guess about 15 years old, appeared… a student in the alternative high school program in Mamaroneck where really smart, creative and out of the mold young people had a chance to seek their own educational direction: Al Giordano, of course.
 
What a breath of fresh air! In that dirty place, this teenager determined to help make this his political home too. He did heavy-duty cleanup, painting, and created a spirited aura. WESPAC was a place where Al brought in all the other interesting and each uniquely gifted, young people in his and other high schools to this new WESPAC entity!
 
 
Al, Connie and area high school students in the mid-1970s at the WESPAC offices in White Plains, NY.
 
 
So started a long and marvelous series of relationships, lessons and growth, not only for all these young people, but for Charlie and me, and all the Anti-Vietnam War and social justice activists drawn in, as well as the new energized environmental movements.
 
And there was lots of emphasis on music… We organized concerts for WESPAC with Al’s help and outreach. He was a teenager who wrote letters to Don McClean. I think Don had just written “American Pie.” And a little later came Pete Seeger. And Arlo Guthrie. And they each came to give concerts to help fund WESPAC’s ongoing work. These concerts happened because a teenager wrote and asked the artists to do them.
 
My relationship and friendship with Pete Seeger has lasted a lifetime and Al’s, over the years, did too.
 
The major environmental focus in the 1970s became the Indian Point nuclear power plants up the Hudson near Peekskill and later on the Clamshell Alliance and the trainings in nonviolent civil disobedience and the extraordinary gatherings that led to the Seabrook, New Hampshire No Nukes occupation to attempt to stop the construction of the nukes there. It opened up a world of antinuke organizing and actions everywhere, but Seabrook was the seminal event and stimulus.  And our folks, young and old, and especially Al, were in the midst of all this energy. When we got arrested, Al was too young and had to lie about his age to remain in jail with us.
 
His antinuke work continued for years, when he moved to Massachusetts. And there he organized the first shutdown of an operating nuclear plant – Yankee Rowe – in history.
 
Bonds were created among the young and old, many of which have lasted till today… A common commitment, working together for common causes, and imbued with love and friendship.
 
Social justice issues were strong and central. We all participated in the Continental Walk for Justice, Peace and Disarmament in 1976, streaming down to DC, and our WESPAC folks were deeply involved.
 
This was the beginning for Al, I would say, of his lifelong commitment to the issues that must move the world to a better place… and this is what he has been doing throughout his life. 
 
Now I am past 90 and Al is far from a kid, but a kid in spirit I know… All through the years, we have linked periodically and always kept in contact and shared many wonderful people and shared the drive to keep the struggle going and never stop, to never let go.
 
 
Connie and Al in 2013. Photo by Laura Garcia.
 
 
Al’s work: the training of so many young people over these years in his School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico, and through his newspaper, Narco News, that he has been doing so successfully,  is – in my view - a natural succession to his earliest years when we worked together, and all the years of productive work that followed.
 
I am so proud of his wonderful work, proud of playing some role in his life, and proud of this amazing workshop he has organized.  He never stops teaching and sharing and growing. 
 
And I love you, Al, so very much.
 
Love,
 
Connie Hogarth  
 

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Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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