Posts Tagged ‘Frances Beal’

Right photo by Howard Petrick

I was in Binghamton, NY, my hometown in October for a work-related trip. That evening, a couple of my friends get me to go to this film about Costa Rica, which I’ve written about. It was sponsored by the local Green Party and some other activist organization. The friend of an old high school buddy of mine says he’s from The Frances Beal Society. What?

I’ve known Fran Beal pretty much all my life. She was my mom’s only female cousin on her mother’s side of the family. Fran, her late mother Charlotte Yates, and her three late brothers, Raymond, Donald and Robert all lived in Binghamton or in nearby Johnson City until 1954, when her father, Ernie Yates, my maternal grandmother’s brother, died suddenly.

Charlotte moved the family to St. Albans, Queens, New York City and the Greens visited the Yates at a minimum annually. And they visited us frequently as well. I wrote up an excerpt of this 2005 interview, the early part about her growing up in our shared hometown.

Fran grew up to be a black feminist activist icon. A couple years ago, local author Barbara Smith told me how much she admired her. I told the FBS person that my cousin’s politics are so far left that she made me feel like William F. Buckley.

So what IS the Francis Beal Society? As far as I can ascertain, it’s an entity at Binghamton University that occupied the campus administration building for a couple weeks in the spring of 2017, in part over opposition to the Blue Lights Initiative. Now, community organizations have been offered a seat at the proposed Town-Gown Advisory Board by the school administration.

I think I let Fran know about the FBS via Facebook, but I don’t know if she saw the notice. For their part, the guy from the Frances Beal Society would LOVE to have contact with the organization’s namesake. I’m not feeling a desperate need to play matchmaker.

BTW, happy birthday, cousin. It’s SOMETIME this month.

One of those holidays I think WAS created by Hallmark is Grandparents Day. Well, technically not, but it FEELS that way.

Here’s another picture my sister Marcia found, taken at some point in the 1940s; no idea where, when or why. The woman in the top row, second from the right is my great aunt Charlotte and the guy next to her in the sweater is her husband, Ernie Yates. Ernie died while his kids Raymond (directly in front of Charlotte), Frances (sitting on the floor), and Donald (on the blonde girl’s lap) were still young, but Charlotte had grandchildren, as Fran, Donald, and Robert (either not yet born, or an infant) all had children. Fran and Donald now have grandchildren.

The woman behind the blonde girl, partially obscured, is my grandma Read the rest of this entry »

Did I mention that I was always appreciative of the fact that my parents were wed in 1950? It was always easy to remember how long they had been married; the math was easy. I was a five-days-early third anniversary present to them, my mother used to say.

I wish I could find this particular photo of my parents on their wedding day. Actually, there are a couple of them. One is of them cutting the cake, which is nice. The other, though, was one taken in the living room of my maternal grandmother. There’s the smiling, happy couple, plus Mom’s mother Gert, her aunt Deana, her uncle Ed, and her Uncle Ernie, all looking sullen. Also in the photo, Ernie’s wife Charlotte, looking like myopic people sometimes looked in photos, and their kids, Raymond, ten years to the day younger than my mother, and Frances, looking mildly bored as tweens (a term that didn’t exist then) were wont to do.

Fran was interviewed in 2005, as I noted here in 2010. Fran believed that my grandma’s family’s resistance to my father was because of his skin color. Read the rest of this entry »

One of my sisters discovered this March 18, 2005 interview with my mother’s first cousin, my first cousin once removed, Frances Beal this autumn, conducted by Loretta Ross. Fran is about 12 years younger than my mother and 13 years older than I am. Her kids are about a dozen years younger than my sisters and I. Her late mother, Charlotte Yates, was my beloved great aunt.

Her politics are far more liberal than mine. She, I suspect, would eschew the term “liberal” altogether, in favor of “radical”. What is truly interesting about the piece though, from my specific POV, is her retelling of her history, which invariably overlaps with mine.

Here’s a picture of Frances Beal.

The info in the italics is mine.

Frances Beal was born in Binghamton, NY, January 13, 1940, the daughter of Ernest Yates [ my maternal grandmother’s brother- ] who was of African American and Native American ancestry, and Charlotte Berman Yates, of radical Russian Jewish immigrant roots. When Fran’s father died in 1954, her mother moved the family to St. Albans, an integrated neighborhood in Queens. In addition to observing her mother’s participation in left politics, Fran was profoundly affected by the murder of Emmett Till , as was I. After graduating from Andrew Jackson High School in 1958, she became involved in civil rights activities and socialist politics while attending the University of Wisconsin.

She married James Beal, and from 1959 to 1966, they lived in France, where they had two children and Fran became attuned to the internationalist/anti-imperialist politics of post-colonial African liberation struggles…

BEAL: OK. I was born in a relatively small city, upstate New York, called Binghamton, New York , as was I. In school they used to tell us, Bing bought a ham and it weighed a ton: that’s how to spell Binghamton…
Read the rest of this entry »

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