Amber Duke: My name is Amber Duke, and I'm interviewing K. A. Owens on Tuesday,June 14 at the Carl Braden Memorial Center on Broadway. Before we get started, I just want you to acknowledge that I did give you the consent form and you understood it and were able to sign it, is that correct?
K.A. Owens: Yes.
A: Wonderful. Can you say and spell your name.
K: K-period-A-period Owens O-w-e-n-s.
A: Okay, can you tell me where and when you were born?
K: Well, I was born in Louisville, KY more than several years ago--quite a fewyears ago.
A (Laughs) Has your family always lived here in Louisville?
K: They were here when I was born, of course. My mother's family is more or less1:00from here. But on my father's side, they're from Shepherdsville, which is in Bullitt County, so my father's from a farm family. My mother's family on her mother's side is more or less from here. My mother's family on her father's side is from Louisiana. My grandfather came up here during World War I.
A: Can you talk about your educational background?
K: I went to Christ the King, 1 -- 6, Highland, and graduated from Atherton HighSchool and got a bachelor's degree from the University of Louisville and a 2:00master's degree from the University of Louisville. Also, I spent my first year of college at Xavier University in Louisiana.
A: In what area are your bachelor's and master's?
K: I have a bachelor's degree in Communications and a master's degree inHumanities with a concentration in Civic Leadership.
A: How did you first learn about race and racism?
K: Well, race and racism--I'm an African-American and so it's always a part ofyour life. I don't know that one can say I engaged in a formal study of it; I simply just lived the life of someone who was born an African-American in the United States of America and had to deal with and react to certain situations. I 3:00really wasn't asked to comment on it until I started doing activism. I work in activism, I work and work against the effects of racism, but I wasn't asked to intellectualize about its origins or causes until later on. As far as speaking engagements, people would ask me to comment on racism in the 21st century and that sort of thing, and so therefore, I had to come up with some sort of analysis and that sort of thing.
A: Okay, what did your parents teach you about race and racism as a child whenyou were growing up at your home?
K: I don't know that we ever had any sort of formal analysis handed down in the family.4:00
A: What did you learn about political or social issues at home or as a child?
K: My parents always read the paper and discussed issues and always voted andwere always familiar with issues of the day.
A: Who are some people or a person who inspired you when you were growing up?
K: Well, I was inspired by historical figures: political, military, and not justfrom here but across the world.
A: Can you name some of the people?
K: Well, I will say that on a local level, I was very impressed with Mattie5:00Jones. This is before I became an activist, because when we had some sort of incident at Highland and she came to the school. She was such a powerful, is such a powerful Amazon-type figure. She came to the school without any kind of entourage or anybody with her and essentially took over the school by herself.
A: Wow. What about, are there any other aspects about your adult life--am Icorrect that you served in the military for a certain amount of time?
K: I was in the Kentucky Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve, yes,that's something else that I did. 6:00
A: Okay, what years did you serve?
K: Well, I was very lucky to have never been called up for any of our recentwars, so I was very lucky in that, I feel. So I missed Iraq one and Iraq two and Afghanistan. I've been very lucky in that.
A: What was the first political or social issue that really interested you?
K: Well, as a young person, before I became involved, I was always interested inpolitics, economics and history. In the mid-90s, when I became involved in activism, there were so many issues that needed to be dealt with. I was here in Louisville so I started dealing with local and state-wide issues that pertained 7:00to Louisville and the state of Kentucky.
A: So what was the first social justice action that you took?
K: Well, I got involved in what we call The Movement back in the mid-1990s.There was organizing going on in Louisville for The Million Man March. And so I went to all the meetings that were, the organizing meetings, and there probably weren't any more than 20 people at these meetings, but I always was fully confident that there would be a million people in Washington, D.C. So there was a lot of camaraderie built up in the meetings and then when we had our bus trip to Washington, we stayed there a couple of nights and so there were a lot of events going on in Washington, D.C. I sort of played an organizing role, an impromptu organizing role there making sure people on our bus and in our hotel got a chance to go to these activities around town. And then, at the Million Man 8:00March, Louis Farrakhan said that when you went back home, you were supposed to get involved in your community.
So after that, we tried to have a Veterans of the Million Man March organizationto deal with issues locally in our community, and that didn't really hold together. So, at that time, I had phone numbers from people who had been involved in the march and the organizing, some of whom like Bob Cunningham, Antonio Wickliffe from the Alliance, Tom Moffitt, other folks, Louis Coleman and various other people who had participated. I had everybody's phone number; I 9:00didn't have a computer at that time; that was in the mid-90s, so I started organizing around events just with the phone numbers that I had. I would just call people and put something together. One of the first things that I worked on of note was when Ajabu of Indianapolis--Ajabu of Indianapolis was the leader of the Black Panther militia up there and he was charged with intimidation. So we got a change of venue to Floyd County, Indiana, which is right across the river from here. So I went over to monitor the case and I spoke to Ajabu and I decided to organize some support for him. I called the people that I knew, and Reverend Coleman was one, the late Louis Coleman. So we put together a contingent to go over, we marched around the courthouse of Floyd County to show support, we 10:00stayed in the trial. So because of the atmosphere, the very high tension-type atmosphere because the people of Floyd County, they thought that Ajabu was going to bring the Black Panther militia to southern Indiana and take over the state. It was all the police organizations there were in full SWAT regalia, so it was a very tense situation.
There were other things I organized, like a street corner protest against thedisparity of sentencing between powder and crack cocaine. I wasn't in a group, still wasn't in a group, and so I did some other things, too. And then I started being invited into peoples' groups, like Bob Cunningham and Antonio invited me into the Kentucky Alliance. I started working on a variety of issues, you name 11:00it: police brutality, prison rights, education, things going on at City Hall. I mean at one time people thought I was part of the furniture down at City Hall. And when I stopped going down to City Hall every week, people thought I had left town, and I was like, "No, I'm still here." So, "Where you been?" "I'm still here."
Then on the statewide level, too, I was invited into Kentuckians for theCommonwealth, as well, to work with them and spent a lot of time in Frankfort on state issues. I was also the General Assembly coordinator, too, for the Kentucky Alliance. I worked on state issues for the Kentucky Alliance, as well. And I 12:00would go to Frankfort several days a week during the sessions and monitor the issues and suggest actions to the Kentucky Alliance and speak on behalf of the Kentucky Alliance and that sort of thing.
A: Before Bob and Antonio invited you to be a part of the Kentucky Alliance, hadyou heard of the organization or sort of monitored their work before you got involved in organizing for the Million Man March?
K: Only very vaguely, that is I don't think I'd ever been to the Braden Centerbefore at 3208 West Broadway, it was only very vaguely.
A: Okay, so you were doing a lot of organizing, coming out of the Million ManMarch, you were doing a lot of organizing on your own, making phone calls and networking with people that were a part of that, and then you were invited to join The Alliance-and you joined The Alliance. When you made that decision to join, become a part of the group and several other groups, what did you hope to 13:00achieve by actually becoming a part of a group and not just organizing from the outside?
K: Well, I just came to the determination that I agreed with people who thoughtthat I could be more effective working on these issues if I had a group. With the Alliance, at that time the Alliance had a board meeting and a general meeting every month, so I would come to both meetings. At that time the general meetings were well attended and issues were brought up there, as well. Folks from out in the community would come with various issues, so it was an educational process. I would sit in the back of the room, the main floor was set up a little bit differently than it is now; there were couches down on the main floor. So I wouldn't sit at the table, I'd just sit on the couch and listen and 14:00then I would start to take part of the conversation on various issues. Then I would be invited to be on a committee and then chair a committee and then eventually I was invited to be on the board. And I said, "Bob, I don't have to be on the board, I could just work on the issues." Bob Cunningham thought that I should be on the board, and then people thought I should be in an officer position and I accepted that, as well. So when I came, I was originally content to just work on the issues without any titles or position of authority. 15:00
A: And so, it was 1995, was that the year that you became active with The Alliance?
K: Yes, 95, 96.
A: And for the record, you are currently active?
K: Right, I'm co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance, along with David Lott andKathleen Parks. There are three co-chairs now.
A: You covered some of this, but I want to talk about this in more detail aboutsome of the major issues that the Alliance was organizing, or has been organizing, around in your time with the organization, so you talked about education, prison rights, police abuse--if you'll just talk, I mean, add other issues, and then just talk specifically about what the Alliance has been trying to address.
K: Well, when I came along, this is before city-county merger, which was on theballot in 2000, so I came along in the mid-90s. And we did have separate police 16:00departments for the city and county at that time. And so we were having some problems with our police department and other criminal justice issues. Angela Davis came to Louisville in 1998 and she spoke at our keynote--she was our keynote speaker for our dinner and she held a community meeting here at the Braden Center on the prison industrial complex. We weren't even using those three words together before she started doing it. She was the one who sort of popularized the phrase or the three words together, prison industrial complex. So, we kept meeting that group of people who met that Saturday at her behest, 17:00because that was what she asked. We had these incidents of police brutality, so we started a group--still dealt with a variety of issues--but to work on police reform, called Citizens Against Police Abuse (CAPA). We built it up, it was a coalition of over 30 Civil Rights groups, religious organizations, and individuals unaffiliated, and so we built it up into a really nice organization, or a group of organizations, and I became a paid organizer for that effort, as well. One of the great things about CAPA was that we had people, as I say, from about 18 to 80, white, black, and everything in between; gay, straight, and 18:00everything in between; rich, poor, and everything in between. You know, we had people in suits, Galen Martin used to be, the late Galen Martin, he was one of the people who used to come with a suit on. We just had some great people working together. The keystones of it were of course the Alliance, the ACLU, the Justice Resource Center, and the Fairness Campaign; those were the keystones of it--Jefferson County Chapter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth.
Then we just kept reaching out and we just got a lot done, we were at City Halla lot, we had a lot of forums. We had a lot of rallies. We had a lot of protests. We got a lot of press conferences, and so we just were getting a lot of people involved. Finally, we actually got a very well-thought-out piece of 19:00legislation passed in the old Board of Aldermen. We had a very strong civilian review ordinance passed; unfortunately, I will say that the new merged government did not see fit to maintain that particular ordinance. But, we really in the pre-merger Louisville and the old Board of Aldermen, we got the Fairness Ordinance passed, which is the gay rights ordinance. We got the civilian review of police ordinance passed, and we got the living wage ordinance passed in the old Board of Aldermen, because we had four black, progressive aldermen, plus two progressive whites out of twelve and we could leverage votes to get stuff done. And as far as the civilian review of police ordinance that particular ordinance 20:00was vetoed by the mayor and we had enough votes on the Board of Aldermen to override the mayor's veto. I mean, we were able to leverage, at that time, Louisville was in this continuous quest for an NBA team and so our friends on the Board of Aldermen were able to leverage support for a new team and a new gym for the team in exchange for a civilian review of police ordinance.
A: The other ordinances that you mentioned that you were able to pass, am Icorrect that all of the other ordinances were carried over to the merged--?
K: (Interrupts) The Fairness ordinance was carried over. Of the big three21:00ordinances, as far as the progressives, the mayor actually had the living wage ordinance, he actually asked that it be rescinded, and so they did.
A: Wow, and so was there--what do you think were some of the things thatcontributed to the failure of those important pieces of legislation not moving over to the merged government?
K: Well, one of the issues I worked against in those days, I was against merger.And so we had another coalition different from CAPA, in the sense that CAPA was essentially progressive, but the anti-merger coalition was Citizens Organized in Search of the Truth, the old COST coalition. Those were unusual bedfellows, but it was a great experience, as well. All these things, as well as having a huge 22:00impact on the community, those were fantastic experiences because, at that time, for instance, this is pre-merger, the county FOP was against merger. So we had people who were for police reform sitting cheek-to-jowl with the Jefferson County FOP leaders. We actually used to meet at the Jefferson County FOP headquarters out off Smyrna Road in deep southern Jefferson County. And they always had snacks, they had a fountain and snacks and, of course, free parking.
The late Russ Maple would attend and he was county commissioner back when thecounty commission had power before merger and Russ got killed in a car wreck. But Russ's most famous line was, "Yeah, it's got free parking, but it costs $10 23:00worth of gas to get out here." (AD Laughs) So but that was a great, it was just a fantastic experience. And the Alliance, you know, spoke against merger in Frankfort and various committees.
The whole point of what I'm trying to make is, one of reasons that we wereagainst merger was because we felt that it would hurt the interests of working people and people of color and the business community wanted merger, just like they want two bridges and the new basketball gym downtown and all of these things that they wanted. They wanted a "chief executive," they don't even like the word "mayor." They like the word "chief executive," they want the city to speak with one voice, that sort of thing. So, but all of those issues were and are important and the type of folks bringing folks together to work on issues is 24:00a big part of what the Alliance does is to bring groups and individuals together originally across lines of color, but across lines of income groups and from various sectors of society to work on these issues. That's what it's there to do.
A: Just one more thing about CAPA, is that--I understood that a few monthsback--that that effort was kind of being reinvigorated, possibly, is that happening currently?
K: Well, we had a meeting on that and some discussions on that and we still25:00don't know where that's going to go. It's still a need for an organization to monitor police behavior and to work for police reform and building a better police department. And that'll always be an issue, and talk about funding of public safety and how much money to spend on public safety and does--do we actually--does the budget of the police department always have to go up or can it go down? There are some cities that are facing shortfalls where the budget is going down. So, how many police do you need and what should they paid and how should they be trained, those are issues that are always going to be important.
A: Just before we move too far from the issues, you previously mentioned26:00education and prison rights, do you want to say anything more in detail about those two issues or any other issues you want to raise?
K: Well, the Alliance has always weighed in on the so-called bussing issues,they've always weighed in on that, on student assignment, I mean, this is currently referred to. It's always weighed in on quality education for all students, it has weighed in on superintendent choice. So, it's still heavily involved in the latest superintendent choice situation. Education is sort of a 27:00key element, a key issue, and the Alliance takes a strong interest particularly at this local level of public schools.
A: And for someone listening to this in 2050, do you want to describe a littlebit with what's going on in 2011 with this superintendent search in Jefferson County?
K: Well, in Jefferson County, we had, in the mid-70s, 1975, we had a SupremeCourt decision that mandated--well, one, it mandated the combining of the Louisville School District and the Jefferson County school, which were two separate school districts. There was busing to balance out the schools, there 28:00was a kind of white riot against busing in 1975 that made the national news. Since that time, the combined school system, Jefferson County schools, really did a pretty good job of creating magnet schools and almost creating sort of a model of desegregation. There are flaws, there are imperfections, and there are social problems, too, that prevent a lot of people, black and white, from getting the most out of the Jefferson County School system. In fact, this situation was so divisive that it actually changed the housing patterns of this area because a lot of white people actually moved out of Louisville, Jefferson 29:00County to Bullitt County, to Oldham County, to Shelby County--people who couldn't afford to move to Oldham moved to Bullitt--so, it changed the housing patterns of the whole area, white flight did. And so there are subdivisions built today, there are roads built today in Bullitt, Shelby, and Oldham County that wouldn't be there if it hadn't been for combining the school districts, and essentially, they didn't want their kids to be a part of a system where they had to go to school with blacks.
Today, some years later, there's still an interest in returning to theneighborhood schools, which is sort of a code phrase for "don't want to go to 30:00school with blacks." So, it's still an issue today. We had a superintendent who was making some progress, and the Alliance came out for his support, Sheldon Berman, but there was a snafu, a relatively minor snafu at the 2010, the beginning of the 2010 school years, and so people used it as an excuse to sort of push him out and now we're winding down to a superintendent search. There are two ladies, one from North Carolina and one from Michigan, that the school board is looking at to fill the superintendent position.
A: Kind of getting back to the Alliance a little bit, you talked about how youworked for a time as a general assembly coordinator, you served as committee 31:00chair, you're now a co-chair of the organization, and you obviously have been an organizer, as well. Talk about some of the various roles, are those all the roles that you've played over the years?
K: Well, the titles sometimes change, that is, I was vice-chair before I becameco-chair, but now we don't have vice-chairs. I've always played an organizing role because I've felt like that's one of the things that I can do. I can help put things together when there's a big event or even a press conference or a rally or a forum or our Unity Dinner that we put on every year, you know, working with people to get stuff done, to make events happen. That's one of the things that I can do, and for the most part, I enjoy doing that. 32:00
A: Can you talk a little bit about how organizing happens at the Alliance?Obviously, there is a board structure and you said at one point that there were board meetings and general public meetings, but if something happens within the community, how does the Alliance organize itself to take an action?
K: Well, one of the great things about the Alliance, of course, is that it canbe formal in the sense that--one of the things that we worked on recently, in fact, it was Sunday, May 22, was the Reverend Louis Coleman Memorial Motorcade. Louis Coleman, the late Louis Coleman, was a long-time Civil Rights leader here in Louisville, and he died, and so there was a big effort to get a street renamed for him. So, the Metro Council renamed the street, and we wanted to have 33:00some sort of event to commemorate the fact that it actually occurred. So, Mattie Jones, who was formerly executive director of the Alliance many years ago, and worked very closely with Louis Coleman, came to our board meeting earlier this year. And she asked us to be the lead organization in putting together this motorcade, because she's getting up in age herself. And she had to come to an organization that had some kind of structure, regular meetings, of billing the work out of, you know, a database, phones, some place with a process in place so she could get something done. And so we said we would be very, very happy to work on the motorcade so the street we're naming could be recognized. 34:00
We called the first meeting here at the Braden Center, folks came, John Johnsoncame that's on the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, and he suggested that we get Ben Richmond involved, and so we had subsequent meetings at the Urban League. Judy Green's staff, even Judy Green, her staff, Dr. Judy Green is on the Metro Council from the first district and supported, as well. Various other folk came and Louisville Metro Human Relations got involved, and various and sundry other groups got involved and individuals to make the motorcade happen. So we 35:00held this series of meetings, notified the community, notified the media and put together a motorcade that went to Reverend Coleman's church, First Congregational Methodist Church, ended there and went up and down the street that had been renamed for him, 34th Street here in Louisville. Actually, almost a block away from where we're sitting right now. So we had the motorcade, we had the program and reception at his church, and at the community center that's built onto his church that's named after him, and it turned out to be a very successful event.
A: How would you summarize the mission and the overall goals of the Alliance?
K: Well, that's just one way. This goes back on to--36:00
A: Oh, please.
K: That is, she came to a board meeting and appealed to the board. Now, the goodthing about the Alliance in the community is that people generally think that we don't actually have to go through a board meeting to get something done. That is, if something happens in the community, if we find out about it, that we're set up in such a way that, with maybe two or three phone calls, we can move on it right away. We're prepared to sort of act on very short notice depending on what it is. And people depend on us to do that.
A: So people from the community, they might call and say, "I had this issue onmy job," or what have you, and the people could mobilize around that quickly?
K: Yes, yes. So people find--that call the number--have the same phone numberfor many, many years. They call the number, they may see mention of us on a 37:00website. The phone number has been the same for all these years and they'll call. And we've always said we'll take a good idea from any direction. So, it doesn't have to be through a formal board process and through a vote of the full board after lengthy deliberations.
A: And do you all still have committees that meet?
K: Yes, we have an education committee, we have a Unity Dinner committee, and wehave a prison rights committee.
A: Okay, anything else you want to say on that point?
K: You mean, on how decisions are made?
K: Well, that's sort of good enough for now.
A: Okay, well, the question that I sort of jumped ahead about for a little bitis, how would you summarize the mission and the goals of the Alliance? 38:00
K: Well, I think that when the Alliance was founded back in the 70s, it wasin the midst of a counter-revolution. See, you had the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s, and folks had been modeling other movements after the Civil Rights Movement. The Chicano Rights, Gay Rights, Women's Rights, you had all of these various issues in the 50s and 60s, and there are people out there who just couldn't stand the changes that had been made in society that were the sort of--they regarded these changes as being destructive. There was a 39:00counter-revolution against all of these changes. You know, the war on drugs, the war on crime. You know, once upon a time, most of the people in jail in America were white and very few black people were in jail but the rules changed as to what crime was with the war on crime and the war on drugs and the jails started filling up with blacks and there were activists getting arrested. So part of what the Alliance was to work against this counterrevolution. And racist and political repression, were and are, a part of that counterrevolution. And so we were plotting against the racism and political repression that were implicit in 40:00the counterrevolution, what was the revolution of the 50s and 60s about, race was a key issue.
A: You talked about earlier how one of the things that the Alliance has done andcontinues to do is bring groups and individuals together. Can you speak a little bit about what the relationship is of the Alliance to other social justice organizations here in Louisville and even other organizations nationally?
K: Well, the Alliance participation actually, when the Alliance participates inan event, even if it doesn't initiate it, a lot of people feel like that sort of legitimizes the event, because the Kentucky Alliance is there. And even on gay rights, I mean, Anne Braden always felt that the Kentucky Alliance was Fairness 41:00before Fairness even was an organization. And we've dealt with what people call today environmental racism. All of these issues other folks have taken up, we've dealt with in one way or another ourselves. So, beyond that, it has always played that role of bringing other people together. You know, of course it's there to fight against racism and political repression and it does take up a variety of issues associated with that over the years. But it's just there to be that binding element between groups and individuals to move forward and to keep society moving forward on these issues, these great issues of the day.
A: You talked about, earlier you were talking about how the Alliance, initially,42:00was about bringing together people across racial lines to organize, and that, of course, is important to the work that you all do today. Can you describe the current racial makeup of the Alliance?
K: Well, that would be hard to do because I don't know that any civil rightsgroups, I mean, when I write a grant, I just in a rough estimate put in a rough estimate of a 60/40 black/white, but we actually don't track in our database by race. I'm not sure other civil rights groups do. So, you might want to ask the other civil rights groups if they do that.
A: How over the years that you've worked at the Alliance, how have blacks and43:00whites gotten along within the organization, doing the work?
K: Well, I think that there are bound to be differences of opinion, but peoplecome here for a reason. I mean, the reality of it is, even though the Alliance has a sort of well-established name, some of the folks that are closely associated with it that are gone now, Anne and Carl Braden, were sort of tainted with the brush of Communism. There were people who were afraid to associate with them, so people, who came here, came here for a reason, and that was to fight on these great issues of the day and to bring people together around these issues. 44:00And they felt like the Alliance could get it done and the way the Alliance was going about it was effective and necessary.
A: Have you made friends while you've been organizing here at the Alliance?
K: Well, I guess you could call it that. There are people I work with every day,so I guess you could call it that, yeah.
A: Okay, obviously, you're involved with several different organizations. How isyour family life and personal life been impacted by all the time that you spend organizing?
K: Well, let's see. I think my connection with the social justice movement has45:00basically been all positive. I mean, I've met so many wonderful people, I've traveled with so many wonderful people, I've worked with so many wonderful people. And it's all around this sort of heavy impact on the great issues of the day, I mean, the great issues of our times. I essentially have, I think it's all been up.
A: I've wanted you to get some, I mean we're sitting in the Carl Braden MemorialCenter, which is the home of the Kentucky Alliance, and I wanted to give you some time to talk about this building itself and the importance of this space in Louisville.
K: Well, the building is symbolic, it's burned down a couple of times, but it'sjust symbolic of people who care coming together to work on issues and who care enough to work on issues that are, a lot of times, people don't think are going 46:00to be successful. I mean, when you talk about those ordinances, in particular, the civilian review of police ordinance, I know some very, very great people who just worked on that for years who never thought it would be successful. They were just doing it because it was the right thing to do. But I, coming into the 90s, every issues that I worked on, I always believed that we could do it. That is, I always believed that we would pass the civilian review of police ordinance. Now, of course, and when it comes to sort of legislative things, it is sort of a concrete type of thing. Anything that a legislative body can do, they can undo, and I understand that completely. But I always felt that we could do that. But so you have--people are so dedicated, so sincere, they don't care 47:00about the so-called taint of ultra-leftist, Communist connection. They don't care about being in an uphill battle or an uphill struggle against some of these great issues. You'll have 50 and 60 people in here willing to work on it, whatever it is, and from all over the community and that's just a wonderful thing.
This building is the home of the Kentucky Alliance in more ways than one. And,as John Johnson said, we recognized John, who's the director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, we recognized him--we recognize people at our New Year's Eve party and also at our Unity Dinner--but our second-to-last New Year's Eve party, John came, and we recognized him amongst others. He said, "This is 48:00hallowed ground." That's what he said, and he's right.
A: You've mentioned a couple of times the Unity Dinner and that's such animportant event here in Louisville and I just wanted to give you some time to talk about that and what you all try to accomplish through that gathering each year.
K: Well, the gathering itself, it's where the social justice community and theirfriends come together. I mean, there are politicians, as well. It's where we come together, whether it's 300, 400, 500, 700 people come together, not only from all over Louisville, Jefferson County, but from all over the state, as well, people come in for it. And then we have a keynote speaker and we've had folks from everywhere from Angela Davis to Ossie Davis. We've had Cornell West, 49:00that was our biggest, we had 700 folks for him. And it just has a tremendous impact, I mean, people still say that--you know, I will be at a supermarket or the bank, and the bank teller will say, "Aren't you with the Alliance?" And I'll say, "Yeah." "Boy, that Cornell West was great. That was the best thing you ever did." So, and plus, it's just people coming together. I mean, before the program starts, there's a sort of tremendous hubbub of people talking to each other, they're just talking, talking, talking. And so, people just talking to each other.
Of course, we recognize, and the last few years, we've had the Anne and CarlBraden Lifetime Achievement Award, as well, that we give to senior activists, and we all recognize other folks at the Unity Dinner, as well. It's just 50:00something that folks in the social justice community look forward to.
A: I know that you didn't meet Carl Braden before he passed away, but I knowthat you had a very special relationship with Anne Braden and I wanted to give you a couple minutes to talk about her and your work with her and if she was a mentor to you.
K: Well, I came in the mid-90s and working on some of the issues, I would bedown here every day, particularly back in the CAPA era. And she didn't really have a formal training program, but we would talk quite a bit around the issues. We didn't always agree, but she definitely had an impact on my life as well as 51:00the lives of others. She was that connection, of course, to sort of an older generation of activists who had been there in the 50s and 60s, and so she had that to hand down to us and plus, she was so active on the issues of today, and until she died, she never stopped, she wasn't just sort of a historical figure. She was active every day, and those of us who learned anything, it was from being active, from doing so many things on these issues. We just learned from working with her on press conferences, rallies, forums, discussions here at the Braden Center-seeing her interact with public figures at 52:00City Hall and the county courthouse here and in Frankfort, seeing how all that played out. So, it definitely was a valuable experience, she was very fearless when she expressed herself verbally and in writing and that was valuable, too.
Not just on the great issues, I remember, we were doing one of our sit-ins atthe old City Hall before merger, the mayor's office and the Board of Aldermen were in the same building. The mayor's office was on the first floor. So we're doing a sit-in at the old City Hall and there was a black janitor who just liked 53:00talking to us. So a white supervisor came down and just harangued him for talking to us, that is, the people who were sitting in. And so Anne Braden, Carla Wallace, and Angeline Rudd, three white women, they jumped all over this white supervisor. He turned around to escape and went to get on the elevator, and they followed him onto the elevator. So, she was quite fearless, not just on the issues but in the moment, she was fearless.
A: And I know that she was a very powerful organizing force within theorganization and, I guess you could say left very big shoes to fill in many 54:00ways. How has the Alliance been able to sort of regroup and reorganize after her passing?
K: Well, I'm sure there are people out there who didn't think that we would. Ithink that people who were in place at the time that she died, we never had any intention of shutting down or doing anything but carrying on. That's what we thought we were supposed to do. So we did.
A: As we come to a close, is there anything that you would like to share thatyou haven't had the opportunity to speak about yet?
K: Well, I know that people have to spend a certain amount of time on this tougheconomy trying to build up a national stability for themselves and their families, and that's always going to be important. However, if you get the 55:00opportunity to take part in the great issues of the day, I would suggest giving it a try, you might like it.
A: Okay, well, thank you so much. [END OF INTERVIEW]