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:
April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail