Jane Speed 1910-1958
This is Jane. Jane lives in Alabama with her wealthy white family. In the 1920s, Jane’s mother, Mary Martin Craik Speed, (Dolly,) takes her to Vienna to study. Jane sees fascists attacking workers’ housing coops and joins Austrian communists' anti-fascist organizing. Jane thinks about southern sharecroppers. She reads George Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism. See Jane get radicalized. Think, Jane, think!
See Jane forced to leave Alabama, organizing in Louisiana, traveling to Pennsylvania for a Communist Party leadership training. (See Dolly spill ink on the Italian ambassador as a protest of the invasion of Abyssinia.) See Jane meet César Andreu Iglesias, Puerto Rican labor leader, journalist and novelist. See Jane marry him and move, with her mother whose new nickname is Maga, to Puerto Rico.
Jane is trying to organize working women in San Juan. But the men get in the way. See Jane become a Tampax sales rep and scare the men away with the idea of menstrual blood. Run, men, run!
See Jane stand up to communist men, too. See Jane help organize the civil defense of San Juan during World War II. See Jane face sedition trials. See Jane. I mean, really see her.
Dick Levins 1930-2016
This is Dick. He was born in 1930. See Dick growing up in Brooklyn with his radical Jewish family. See him march at age four in the 1934 May Day parade. See Dick collecting money for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade when he's six. See him read The Microbe Hunters and The Voyage of the Beagle and decide to be a biologist. See Dick learn about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and cry with pride. See Dick love math and Marx.
This is Rosario. She is Puerto Rican from Harlem. She is at Hunter College learning about Marx. See Sari get excited about communism. See Sari go to a party of young communists with her friend.
See Sari and Dick meet. See them fall in love in seconds. See them go on a date to hear Trinidadian communist and feminist Claudia Jones speak on The Woman Question. See them talk about the lecture. Sari says, How does this apply to us? Dick says, Let's be faithful for 88 years and then review the question. See them get engaged on the spot.
See them in Peekskill in September 1949. See Dick linking arms with hundreds of other to provide security for Paul Robeson and other singers, against right wing racist and anti-Semitic mobs. See Sari and Dick in a bus, with the mobs throwing stones. This is their third date.
See Dick and Sari in 1951, married, blacklisted, pacifists. See the Korean War and McCarthy. See them on a park bench in Ithaca, deciding to go to Puerto Rico.
See them in San Juan, looking for work with the FBI two steps behind. See them meeting their Party contacts, Jane and César. Jane says they should buy land so they can grow food and survive the blacklist. Farm, Dick, farm, says Jane. See Dick learning Spanish, making many funny mistakes, persisting. See Jane and Sari become best friends. See Jane encourage Dick and Sari, my young parents, to trust their own thinking. See them change the rural organizing strategy of the Communist Party.
See Dick and Jane, white US partners of radical Puerto Ricans, immerse themselves in the liberation struggles of the Puerto Rican people.
See Dick organize coffee workers and a small farmers’ cooperative. See Sari organize rural women. See Jane going door to door, (offering to demonstrate the use of Tampax,) talking to city women about their lives. See César writing his newspaper column.
See Dick and Sari go away to New York and go back to school. See Jane buried in a small cemetery in the mountains. See Dick and Sari return to Puerto Rico. See Dick teach biology at the university and Marxism in living rooms. See Sari study feminism and anthropology and make art and raise radical children at home. See the independence movement grow. See the anti-war movement grow. See Dick write "From Rebel to Revolutionary" and blow people's minds. See him testify against the Navy about Vieques. See him mentoring student leaders. See Dick being denied tenure. See Dick and Sari take their three children to Chicago and plant them in the middle of new movements. See their children and grandchildren move through the world, doing things that matter. See what solidarity can create.
US imperialism is escalating the looting of Puerto Rico through the criminal maneuvers of vulture funds and the cynically named PROMESA Bill. If Dick and Jane were here, they would be raising hell. They aren't, but you are.
Dick and Jane were great allies to the people of Puerto Rico. You can be one, too. Join a demonstration. Organize a protest. Make a poster. Write a song. Study the situation. Explain it to your friends. Make connections between your struggles and ours. Form your own Dick and Jane Brigade in solidarity with Puerto Rico .
¡Que vivan Dick & Jane!
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Aurora Levins Morales is a disabled and chronically ill, community supported writer, historian, artist and activist. It takes a village to keep her blogs coming. To become part of the village it takes, donate here.
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