Yesterday I shared my memories of the beginnings of my friendship with Jane in our common vision for a world of peace, justice, and equality. That friendship began to deepen in earnest when we attended the annual conference for NASW Texas in November 1993 and met Si Kahn. When it turned out our rich uncle did not actually have to be that rich, we set the wheels in motion to bring him to Abilene, Texas to host a workshop–the first of any number of amazing events we would collaborate on over the next 10 years before our paths diverged to Mississippi for me and Unalaska, Alaska for her, including the birth of the Abilene Peace and Justice Center, and the Workshops for Justice Series, among other opportunities.
We began the process of raising the funds to bring Si to Abilene as soon as we got home from Dallas in November. In less than a month, we had secured the funding. Some of our social worker/social justice colleagues and friends contributed, as did Jane and I. We secured a contribution from the regional community mental health center Case Management Unit and opened the events to people who attended the center for mental health services. The Social Work Club for the program also provided some funds. The largest sum–that $4,000 Jane mentions–came from a grant I wrote to the Cullen Fund for Faculty Enrichment at Hardin-Simmons University where I served as the Field Coordinator for the Department of Social Work. It paid for his speaker fees, and the other funds were for his transportation, lodging, and meals. That $4,000 covered a presentation on his work in Civil Rights the afternoon of his arrival, a presentation on the importance of community building that was open to the community that evening, a workshop on community organizing and development for students and social workers on Saturday morning, and a concert Saturday evening, as he is a talented song writer/singer in addition to an author, organizer and everything else he has accomplished.
Jane and Si contributed much to my work on community organizing, building community, and the importance of developing relationships. While the two posters of his time in Abilene were in my offices at HSU and UM, since May they have hung in my living room, where the walls are adorned with the posters and photographs of music I love. Beale Street, Super Chikan, Fred Eaglesmith, James Pirkle Blues Band, Elvis Presley, and Si Kahn. Perhaps some day, there will come a time when there will be more music posters on those walls.