Friday, April 04, 2008

Boston, April 4, 1968

I was really too young to remember it, just barely 7. My own home was still grieving the loss of my mother's father ten days earlier. However, there were discussions after the fact. Especially when we all read "Common Ground" by J. Anthony Lukas. I had lots of questions for my parents and grandmother. I have been thinking about this lately because of a post I saw at Universal Hub. In the post Adam talks about the James Brown concert that VH1 describes as "The Night James Brown Saved Boston". I was never a fan. Sure he was helpful, but for a price - $60,000. I don't know what that translates to today, but I'm sure it was quite the sum.
No, in my house credit for Boston surviving that time goes to "Kevin from Heaven", the mayor that was smart enough to marry a Charlestown girl. Yes, he was liberal, but I loved him. You know I was a Goldwater Girl, but I had my heroes across the aisle. Kevin White was young and charismatic and four months into office when this happened. Kevin was smart enough to listen to Boston City Councilor Tom Atkins who went on to hold an important position in the NAACP and his own mayoral aide Barney Frank (who hasn't done many things right in my eyes since).
The three important factors were the following.
One - He kept the Boston Police Department from rushing into the grieving Roxbury to quell every little disruption. Mayor White understood that some steam had to be let off. This is not a knock against the BPD in specific or police in general. Their natural instinct is to preserve order. Sometimes, however, in people's grief, they need to be a little disorderly.
Two - He had the police keep stupid white people from driving through and gawking. Yes, there are people who do go to watch things like that. I know that if someone wanted to cruise on through a wake I was attending, just to rubberneck, they'd get a smack. While I wouldn't have had the slightest problem with whatever calamity befell someone stupid enough to "go have a look" that night, it was better for all concerned that Kevin White didn't allow that to happen.
Three - The James Brown thing. Yes, it was better for the City that a whole bunch of people stayed home and watched James Brown "do his thing". That would not have been possible without Mayor White coming up with the 60K and arranging for the local PBS channel to air it live and repeat it immediately afterwards.
Another footnote that makes the 60 grand easier to swallow.........Kevin White didn't have that kind of money in the City coffers. So he went to the Vault, a group of business men who had formed to handle certain financial crises. Kevin didn't get $60,000 from them........he got $100,000 and used the rest for things like starting up "Summerthing"!!!! Plus, he got James Brown to kickback $2,500 to his Martin Luther King Trust Fund. LOL
I certainly wasn't there when White, Frank and Atkins discussed the James Brown concert, but I am certain of one thing that must have been said - "Sixty thousand dollars! Mothah A Gahhhhhd!" LOL anyone my age or older from Boston remembers that as the Mayor's response to several things.

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