Kitty Hendrix on Narrating Edgar Allan
When I began narrating the story of Edgar Allan, it wasn’t long before I recognized that the all-white, affluent, Northern California town in the mid 1960’s that 12 year old Michael Ficket describes was the one that I grew up in at around that same age. This coincidence led me many poignant memories.
I don’t think it ever occurred to me that living in an all white community was unusual. Ethnic and cultural diversity was something we never discussed. The only overt diversity that I could identify in my community was whether you were a Christian (Protestant, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian) or a Catholic. I was taught to assume that everyone would want to live with their “own kind.” The catholic kids went to catholic school. I can’t remember ever being told that we were superior or better. But I do remember knowing that black and brown people lived somewhere else.
Some of my friends had housekeepers or gardeners who were black, latino or asian. I never asked myself why they worked in my town but didn’t live there. I never wondered what their families, homes or schools were like. I assumed they were just like ours.
In my senior year of high school, Hassan, who was Iranian and was “sponsored” by a local family, arrived. We embraced him the way you would an exotic toy. He looked like a young Omar Sharif. He played soccer instead of football and wore sheepskin vests. We voted him Senior Class President. I don’t remember a single girl who ever actually dated him or his being part of any casual group of guys. He was our honorary outsider.
1967 sparked the “Summer of Love” and all types of people were now hitching rides and sleeping in parks up and down the California coast. When the “hippies” arrived in our town, it was as though we were under siege…at least to our parents. But to us… everything exploded! Music, politics, film, fashion …everything. It was as if a small portal had opened up and real life had come flooding in. It was the first time I began to question the values of my community.
In 1968 the war in Vietnam had escalated. Because of the draft, guys I knew were preparing to head there. Martin Luther King was shot. Shortly thereafter, so was Bobby Kennedy. That year I started to become aware of a world outside and of the Civil Rights struggle. I read that a greater number of young black men were being sent to Vietnam because they were not able to afford school and get deferred. They were hoping to get an education paid for by the government… if they survived the war. I began to understand about resources and to feel that the chasm between being white and being black in America was too vast for any of them to have the opportunities that I had, even though they a had a right to those same opportunities.
For me that was a turning point.
As soon as I could drive, I headed to San Francisco to the concert halls called Winterland and the Filmore. Music became my passport to diversity. I met musicians and artists who were black, latino and indian. I felt their cultures through their music and learned about their lives… and as I did, I felt as if I had woken from a coma. I never looked back.
So… what really did happen to Edgar Allan?