FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Remembering Mario Savio and the FSM

I went to the Mario Savio memorial December 8th, 1996, at Pauly ballroom in the student union at UC Berkeley. At noon my two friends and I arrived, but the ballroom was packed with over 1,000 people and every seat in the room was taken. So my two friends and I sat down on the floor by the exit door to the left of the stage along with about forty people who arrived to sit down on the floor. It reminded me of the days of fall, 1964, when I was sitting on the concrete in Sproul Plaza listening to FSM speeches for hours. December 8th was choosen for the memorial because it was the day Savio turned 54; also, it was the day that the faculty approved by 8-1 the FSM position granting student full speech rights on the Berkley campus. Also, it was the third day of Hanukah. When I sat in in Sproul Hall for free speech rights on the Berkeley campus, it was also Hanukah; some of the Jewish students lit a menorah inside the sit-in and danced a hora to a record on a portable record player. It seemed fitting to be Hanukah, both in 1964 and now, because Hanukah is a holiday that commemorates a struggle for freedom.

Bettina Apthetker, a Free Speech movement activist, was the MC. She said, “His great strength as a student leader was his absolute and transparent integrity.” The next person who spoke was Lynn Hollander, Mario’s widow. She talked about the private man who loved calamari and candlelight, geraniums and Gerlald Manley Hopkins, snuggling and “Star Trek” The Next Generation.” Mario’s brother, Tom Savio, spoke next. Then Truston Davis, an African-American who met Mario in jail. Then two more civil rights activists–Anita Levine Medal and Jack Weinberg–spoke about Mario the civil rights activist who went to Mississippi in Freedom Summer of 1964 to work with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee after Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman were murdered and who continued his civil rights work back in Berkeley. This is the Mario I remembered.

But what moved me more than memories of Mario thirty years ago were the next speakers who talked about Mario of the last ten years: Oliver Johns, Mario’s physics professor at S.F. State, shared with us how incredibly brilliant a physics student Mario was; Elaine Sundberg shared her deep friendship for him as a colleague and fellow political activist/teacher at Sonoma State College where Mario taught for the last six years; Mette Adams, a student activist at Sonoma State, shared how Mario helped empower the students there to fight a fee hike. Adams said that Mario taught the students that “ordinary people banding together can make change happen.” Mario’s heart attack came as he was preparing a legal brief to beat back the proposed fee hike at Sonoma State University and he attacked the fee hike as “an assault on the ability of working people to send their children to college.” Adams said that after Mario’s death the students continued to battle against the fee hike; in the referendum recently taken, the fee hike was defeated by the 16% margin.

A lot of other speakers said they wanted to remember both Mario the student activist of thirty years ago and Mario the teacher who gave so much to his own students and also helped empower them to act politically. In recent years he had emerged in the Bay Area has a strong supporter of immigrant rights, students’ rights and of affirmative action. One of the best speakers was Mario’s son, Nadav Savio, who read a letter his father sent him about the present: “We have a very hard task. We have to educate on the basis of moral values, of what justice is.”

The Mario I remember of thirty-two years ago and the Mario of the last six years were the same: he acted out of deeply spiritual core, and acted for justice. When he became famous at twenty-one, he rejected everything about celebrity. He didn’t want to became famous. He didn’t want to become a celebrity. He wanted a more just world. And he could always find time to talk to people, whether students thirty years ago or now. He saw that the way to that world was through talking to people. Even though he wasn’t Jewish, I think he would have understood Hanukah very well.

At the end of the memorial the people left the auditorium, went downstairs and out of the student union to Sproul Steps. There they held hands and sang “We Shall Overcome” on Sproul Steps.

The sixth night of Hanukah. I’ll dedicate one of my Hanukah candles to Mario.

JULIA STEIN can be reached at: juliastein@sbcglobal.net

FSM @ 40: Free Speech in a Dangerous Time.

A public celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, Oct. 4 to Oct. 10, at UC Berkeley.

The program of 42 events honors the past and focuses on current controversies, presenting the broadest teach-in on civil liberties issues yet in the nation.

A noon panel on Thursday, 10/7, will feature Alex Cockburn, Lenni Brenner, Jack Heyman, and Michael Rossman on the FSM’s lessons for today.

Atop a police car, symbolic of the police car there, 40 years ago, Tony Serra and ACLUers will dissect the Patriot Act before the main noon rally in Sproul Plaza, on Friday, 10/8.

Besides veterans of the FSM, speakers at various events will include Molly Ivins, Howard Dean, Gavin Newsom, Serra, Jackie Goldberg, the Erowids, leading representatives of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, MOVE ON, and much more.

See http://www.fsm-a.org/ for details.

 

More articles by:

November 15, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Ukania: the Land Where the Queen’s Son Has His Shoelaces Ironed by His Valet
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Spraying Poisons, Chasing Ghosts
Anthony DiMaggio
In the Wake of the Blue Wave: the Midterms, Recounts, and the Future of Progressive Politics
Christopher Ketcham
Build in a Fire Plain, Get What You Deserve
Meena Miriam Yust
Today It’s Treasure Island, Tomorrow Your Neighborhood Store: Could Local Currencies Help?
Karl Grossman
Climate of Rage
Walter Clemens
How Two Demagogues Inspired Their Followers
Brandon Lee
Radical Idealism: Jesus and the Radical Tradition
Kim C. Domenico
An Anarchist Uprising Against the Liberal Ego
Elliot Sperber
Pythagoras in Queens
November 14, 2018
Charles Pierson
Unstoppable: The Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and NAFTA
Sam Bahour
Israel’s Mockery of Security: 101 Actions Israel Could Take
Cesar Chelala
How a Bad Environment Impacts Children’s Health
George Ochenski
What Tester’s Win Means
Louisa Willcox
Saving Romania’s Brown Bears, Sharing Lessons About Coxistence, Conservation
George Wuerthner
Alternatives to Wilderness?
Robert Fisk
Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Three Daughters were Killed in Gaza, But He Still Clings to Hope for the Middle East
Dennis Morgan
For What?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Government is Our Teacher
Bill Martin
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
Rivera Sun
After the Vote: An Essay of the Man from the North
Jamie McConnell
Allowing Asbestos to Continue Killing
Thomas Knapp
Talkin’ Jim Acosta Hard Pass Blues: Is White House Press Access a Constitutional Right?
Bill Glahn
Snow Day
November 13, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Midterm Results are Challenging Racism in America in Unexpected Ways
Victor Grossman
Germany on a Political Seesaw
Cillian Doyle
Fictitious Assets, Hidden Losses and the Collapse of MDM Bank
Lauren Smith
Amnesia and Impunity Reign: Wall Street Celebrates Halliburton’s 100th Anniversary
Joe Emersberger
Moreno’s Neoliberal Restoration Proceeds in Ecuador
Carol Dansereau
Climate and the Infernal Blue Wave: Straight Talk About Saving Humanity
Dave Lindorff
Hey Right Wingers! Signatures Change over Time
Dan Corjescu
Poetry and Barbarism: Adorno’s Challenge
Patrick Bond
Mining Conflicts Multiply, as Critics of ‘Extractivism’ Gather in Johannesburg
Ed Meek
The Kavanaugh Hearings: Text and Subtext
Binoy Kampmark
Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power
November 12, 2018
Kerron Ó Luain
Poppy Fascism and the English Education System
Conn Hallinan
Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon
Robert Hunziker
Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia
John W. Whitehead
Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans
Will Griffin
Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class
John Eskow
Harold Pinter’s America: Hard Truths and Easy Targets
Rob Okun
Activists Looking Beyond Midterm Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take
Dean Baker
Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools
George Wuerthner
Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail