Leaving Berkeley-pix

During my last semester at Berkeley, the department requested that graduate students submit a photo for the “departmental album”. I had no idea that the album would be used by potential employers and no one bothered to explain it to me. I could not fathom why all my heretofore rebellious colleagues were paying big bucks to professional photographers to come up with the album picture. I had very little money to spend on such a ridiculous item.

Someone suggested, only half-jokingly, that the point was to enable prospective employers to see if you were black or not and I found that easy to believe. I was not in the most co-operative of moods, having recently suffered several kinds of harassment by conservative anthro faculty who thought they had gotten rid of me when I dropped out right after People’s Park and went to Japan. So I just said, “To hell with it,” stopped in at a photo booth on my way to work one day and submitted this picture to the graduate secretary.

I realized only recently, when I came across the photo, that by doing this I had, in effect, blacklisted myself for any future permanent academic job. That would be on top of the blacklisting that was done by the FBI agent I ended up talking to after I graduated and applied for a federal social worker job. After waiting far too long for a reply to my application, hearing that all my references had been visited by FBI agents, then being shuffled from one department to another when I called about it, I was referred to this FBI agent who said to me, “I’m going to make sure you are never hired for any federal job in your lifetime.”

It turned out to be true. I was turned down most recently in 2000, when I applied for the second time, for a job as a census taker, aced the test, was told that as soon as I was cleared I would be a crew supervisor, then was told by the personnel guy that I had not been given a security clearance and my application was “stuck in the FBI”–exactly what happened when I applied for that job the first time. All because of the FSM bust, as far as I know, though I have never seen my FBI file and have speculated that it actually may have been  started when I applied for the Peace Corps in 1962.

Anyway, this is what I looked like my last semester in Berkeley. I’m wearing my “coat of many colors” seen elsewhere on this blog. It was the first thing I made for myself (used to make most of my clothes) after arriving in Berkeley. It was reversible, of hand-woven wool, mostly red on one side and mostly green on the other. People tried to buy it off my back. I still have it.

I was at this point in time appreciating what I had been told was a little drop of Native American ancestry, wearing braids, getting as tan as possible and liking it when people said I looked a little like Buffy St.Marie. As it turned out, according to my recent DNA analysis, I have not a drop of Native American ancestry but am 2% Bantu, suggesting one of my ancestors lied to cover up the black part. However, I bought the lie completely and was at this point getting into it.

Shortly after I was sexually and politically harassed out of graduate school with a terminal M.A. arranged illegally by the harasser, my daughter’s father and I packed ourselves and our kids into a pickup truck with camper and hit the road out of Berkeley, looking mainly for a place a mixed-race hippie family such as ourselves might find a way to live in peace. We lived in the truck for about three months, during the summer, went as far north as the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island and as far south as San Pedro. Ultimately, we landed in Redway CA,  the place we kept returning to, to visit friends who had moved there from Berkeley.

fam truck iph 3

On the left, my stepson, my husband John, myself and our daughter next to our truck camper home on Vancouver Island. Following directions we had received from hitchhikers, we drove around a rock at low tide and found a community of Canadian hippies living on and near this beach in everything from driftwood huts to tents to actual owner-built cabins. Although they urged us to stay, we were not Canadians and figured sooner or later that would become a problem. Plus, we had no illusions about what kind of shelter the kids needed–we really needed some kind of non-rolling roof over our heads. The next stop after this was Redway and rental housing.


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