Grassroots activist and author Joann Castle In Conversation with Alena Williams
As a new wave of activists from Black Lives Matter to the Trump resistance respond to the latest tide of repression, misogyny, and racism, today’s activists are becoming the next link in a long line of American social justice movements. Looking to strengthen this historical bond, in her memoir What My Left What Was Doing: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist, Detroit author Joann Castle turns to her deep experiences for lessons learned that speak to universal social and political issues, which resonate today. What My Left Hand Was Doing's exclusive 'Activist's Survival Guide' offers a relevant, critical bridge between generations of world changers fighting for a better tomorrow. Join us as for an inter-generational discussion between Joann and Alena Williams.
About What My Left Hand Was Doing
'A searing, unflinching account of black and white political activism in the 60s and 70s.' -- Herb Boyd, author of Black Detroit: A People s History of Self-Determination
“If one wants to know how a white Catholic working-class girl, who grew up in a relatively conservative, racially insensitive environment, became a political activist, a crusader for social justice, and later a committed revolutionary this poignantly written, sensitive memoir is a must-read. This is a story about America.” --Michael Goldfield, author of The Color of Politics: Race and the Mainsprings of American Politics
In 1967, race riots burned across America, fueled by white blindness and black rage. In Detroit, the fire burned hottest and brightest. Faced with this unforgettable devastation, grassroots activists rose from the ashes to advance a radical social vision: blacks and whites working together toward a just society.
In What My Left Hand Was Doing, Joann Castle takes us into the heart of the movement, tracing her transformation from a naive, white working-class Irish Catholic mother of six young children in segregated post-war Detroit into a passionate foot soldier in the radical Catholic, civil rights, and black self-determination movements.
A priceless activist history lesson, What My Left Hand Was Doing chronicles the more common, less discussed reality of the day-to-day efforts, interactions, triumphs, and failures that reflect every movement. Castle explores a wide range of experiences, including the inevitable push-forward and push-back ignited by the civil rights and black power crusades, the challenging dynamics of white privilege, and why genuine political coalitions between blacks and whites have often been stalled by whites unwillingness to become allies and defenders of non-whites push for self-determination.
About the Author
Joann Castle is a lifelong Detroiter and political activist. She was the mother of six young children when she became involved in the radical Catholic movement for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1960s. Against the incendiary backdrop of the 1967 Detroit insurrection and its aftermath, Castle invested in community work, foster care, and co-founded Hourglass, a group which lobbied the Catholic Church to support black self-determination. By 1968, she was an active member of the Ad-Hoc Action Group struggling against police brutality and later joined the Motor City Labor League, a radical left organization. In the early 70s, she co-founded the unprecedented Control, Conflict & Change Book Club which united blacks and whites in collective consciousness raising and political action.
As Castle became more intensely involved in political activities her marriage failed, she broke with her church, and her family disowned her. Against all odds, she embraced her new life and moved on with her children at her side. Castle married Michael Hamlin in 1975, at the height of his work in the Black Power Movement. She later embarked on a twenty-seven-year career in health care services and earned an M.A. in medical anthropology.
What My Left Hand Was Doing is drawn from Castle's personal experience as an activist corroborated by archival materials from Wayne State University's Walter P. Reuther Library Archives. In 2012, Castle founded, Against the Tide Books, a company dedicated to the publication of Personal Histories in the Struggle for Justice.