So strange. "Young Betty," is still being discovered -- validating memories that are by now so ancient that I experience them as dreamlike -- no longer as reality once lived. The Artist Betty has been buried for so many years that I experience her as a very separate being now; like someone I once knew ... .
The song this young graphic artist is referring to is one I wrote and performed in 1965 at a church benefit (for which a vinyl disc was created of all the performances). It was held in a high school auditorium, and I believe it was the first time of sharing my work in public.
None of my songs was ever published, so it's a mystery of just how that obscure composition made it to Chicago and into the year 2013, but it miraculously has.
The song was inspired by letters home written by my young friend, Susan Sanford, who had left the university with other young white activists from our community to spend the summer teaching in a Freedom School in Canton, Mississippi. It was Freedom Summer, 1964. Susan was wearing a string of pearls every day under her tee-shirt -- pearls I'd received on my wedding day, and which needed 're-anointing' through something that would imbue them with meaning. My marriage was failing slowly, and the events in the Civil Rights Revolution were providing a way to re-direct my passion. Writing songs was providing a way to process all that was happening to me at the time.
The story was about a black woman in whose humble home those students would gather in the evenings to talk into the night about their experiences. There was mention of church burnings and "cotton flamin' 'neath summa skies," and "shrouds 'o white - no name namin'" (the Klan), and about her summoning the courage to actually go to the courthouse to "sign her name for freedom."
Ironic that Mike Tewz' message would reach me on the day that the Supreme Court gutted the Voters Rights Act.
Sure it is.