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Child Development Group of Mississippi, “A Letter to you from Tom Levin”

September 3, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

“A Letter to you from Tom Levin”

Child Development Group of Mississippi
Newsletter #3 [1965]

A letter to all those who have made CDGM possible –

Dear friends,

This summer in Mississippi we have built upon the struggles of passed years. We built CDGM upon the ahes of churches where poor people spoke out for equality. We built CDGM upon the bodies of Negro and white workers for the poor who were killed because they would not stay quietly at home to live in peace with injustice. We built CDGM upon the hunger and humiliation of men and women who were not allowed to work at a decent job before they would not give up being free. We built upon hundreds of years of the suffering and courage of mothers and fathers throughout the state of Mississippi who wanted something human and decent for their children and themselves. If we are proud of what we have done we must remember that we could not have schools run by the poor people, schools with black and white working together, if a place in history had not been won for us by brave men and women before this summer – men and women who said loudly and clearly “All Men Must Be Free.” We have a large debt to these brave people of the “Movement.” We can only pay it by never being satisfied until all men in Mississippi have political, social, and economic freedom. 

This summer in Mississippi we took on new debts as well. We worked hard to give over six thousand children a headstart toward being proud and free. We owe them our hand from now on. The children have started but we must go with them into their new schools and we must say, “These are free children of free people. Treat them with respect and they will learn and grow to make a better world for us all.” In  our homes we must treat each child with dignity and respect so he will learn from his parents how free people are treated. How we treat our children will help them know how the world should treat them.

We showed the whole country this summer that poor people could plan and run their own schools. People talked a lot about poor people running their own centers but they didn’t trust the poor. In CDGM we did what others talked about but were afraid to do – every center was run by its own community committee! This summer in a few short weeks, 86 centers were organized, committees chosen, buildings found and repaired, community staff recruited and selected, transportation and meals arranged, and hundreds of problems solved by the communities themselves. From this work we have come to another debt. We must keep our community committees representative of the poor, and we must all take responsibility to see that the committees are not taken away from us by tyrants of the outside or the inside.

Over 1200 people worked for CDGM this summer. Those who have worked cannot feel their job is over. All the staff must think now how they can learn to work better for the communities ion the future. We must learn from our mistakes so that we have better ways to be educators, administrators, and specialists. We must always remember we worked for the poor. The jobs must go first to the poor. We cannot settle for the easy way of hiring people who are not poor because they have had more of a chance for more education and work experience. We also cannot reject help from specialists who we need because they are not poor. That is false pride. We have to balance out what will be the most help for the most poor over the long term.

The Office of Economic Opportunity acted with courage and understanding when they gave CDGM the money to run this summer program. If we want a government, and government programs like OEO to keep courage, we must work to make the government truly our government. We must register and then vote with care and thought, always thinking, “Who will help the people most? Who has listened to us in the past? Who will listen to our needs in the future?” If we expect them to listen we must tell them. We must write and tell the representatives in Washington, the President, and the government departments what we want. We have to sit down together and talk about how we can make them hear us and do things we want them to do.

Our Board and the Council of Neighborhood Centers must learn from the mistakes and victories of this summer how a long term program for the poor can best be run. They must listen to the people in the communities and the people must not let things be run for them. If we want our program to stay a program of the poor then the representatives we have chosen must hear from us regularly and we must know what they are doing – and be ready to help with our work whenever we can.

To those of you who I will not see before I leave for my home, I must say goodbye with this letter. To all of you I give my thanks for the opportunity to do work in a cause that has given me a feeling of deep pride, for I have worked with free men toward building a free society.

Tom Levin
Director CDGM

Categories: child care, histories, welfare
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