Remembering AL WASSERMAN: Civil Rights and anti-war activist; participated in the Selma to Montgomery march with Martin Luther King
Al Wasserman, 10/1/26 – 8/14/15, led several thought provoking RCNV Study Groups, including “Violence: reflections on a national epidemic” by James Gilligan and “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” by Chris Hedges. He enjoyed a good discussion about weighty moral issues. Al was a long-time RCNV supporter and attended many of our events over the years. Presenté.
Excerpts from Cindy Wasserman, writing about her father, Al Wasserman:
He was an intellectual man. Up at 3am every night, for decades, writing, reading – and noshing. A voracious reader, he consumed books on labor’s history, economic globalization, U.S. foreign policy and the occasional Hollywood memoir the way kids pound down milkshakes, with about as much gusto and relish. He led study groups with the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz and he became a regular contributor and columnist to a local newspaper.
He was a man with a strong moral compass. An activist in the civil rights and anti war movements, he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Dad had seen footage, on the news, of the beatings on Pettus Bridge. He quickly bought a plane ticket to Alabama, happened to meet a news reporter returning home who gave Dad his press badge, thereby allowing him access to the march. He marched with his dear, lifelong friend, Bill Pool (and, as he liked to mention, alongside one of his other heroes, Pete Seeger.) My Mom called Millbrae Furniture every day to tell them my Dad was sick and wouldn’t be in to work that day. Bill loved telling how funny it was when Dad came back to work with a great tan after a week of “sick leave”! But it was a compelling and dangerous thing to do, and I am proud of my Dad for having participated in this march, and for demonstrating, sitting in, protesting and even going to jail for so many just causes.
A supporter of the disenfranchised, working people and countries that placed their citizens above profit, Dad studied Cuba, China, Palestine and, more recently, Venezuela. He and my Mom were among the first Westerners to travel to The People’s Republic of China in the early 70’s (before Nixon). Dad was actually invited there, as a guest. They got to watch surgeries performed without anesthesia other than acupuncture (after which patients awakened and stepped off the operating table themselves) and met “barefoot doctors,” farmers who were provided enough basic medical training to work in rural villages where urban-trained doctors would not settle. Read more: Cindy Wasserman- Remembering Dad
Excerpts from Mardy Wasserman, writing about her father, Al Wasserman:
- When I was in high school in the 60’s, Dad was arrested during a sit-in, protesting racial discrimination in hiring practices on famed Auto Row, Van Ness Ave., in San Francisco.
- Many of you probably know that Dad and his best friend, Bill Poole, terrified but committed, joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his March from Selma to Montgomery, AL.
- Dad and I walked with Cesar Chavez on a long, hot, 4 day protest through Central CA, during the grape boycott, staying with braceros who offered us rice and beans, a place on their floor to sleep, and an outhouse.
- He was a radical, anti-war activist who expressed his beliefs in action, and was again arrested at the Oakland Induction Center as he tried to prevent young men from registering to go to war. He said, “It has to start somewhere, sometime, by people like us.” And it happened: people like us stopped that war. Read more: Mardy Wasserman, Celebration of Dad
Excerpts from Harvey Wasserman, writing about his father, Al Wasserman:
Good afternoon, everybody. I thought I might share some fragments that came to mind as I was pondering what to share with you today.
Most of you will be more or less familiar with dad’s political life – sit ins at Van Ness Auto row, Picketing and sit ins at the Oakland Induction Center – I was with him when he was picked up and charged with sedition – Selma, Alabama; The March on Washington, his trip to China.
But some of you may not know that in the 60’s, dad was a black panther. Really! He had the jacket, the beret, and he had a Black Panther bumper sticker on his lovely little red Alpha Romeo. A bushois Black Panther! Read more: Memories of my father, By Harvey Wasserman