Document 73: Elayne DeLott, Journal, "on community centers–a local hangout," Jackson, Mississippi, [December 1964], Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

Introduction

   The lack of clear direction after Freedom Summer was reflected in projects like community centers that had been heavily staffed in the summer. About 400 of the approximately thousand summer volunteers opted to remain in the state after the summer, but programs like community centers were still weakened by the loss of staff and a corresponding focus on more targeted political objectives. At the time, I lacked this perspective. I had no understanding of what was happening with the incidents of adolescents "acting out" that particularly plagued the Jackson office. What became clearer to me as I worked in minority communities in subsequent years was still a puzzle. I had neither the background nor the connection with these young men to understand how the messages that society gives to youth are mirrored in their individual and collective responses.

on community centers- a local hangout

    16 year old boys playing badminton and ping pong for weeks on end. it is ludicrous when you think that people come down here with a dislike of american style society, and then apply american style solutions to problems and expect revolutionary results. hurrah for us for having formed miss. gangs resembling in destructiveness and idleness the northern city gangs. the difference is that in most cases they do not dare tamper with white property, and still having a respect for their own family, have to find an object of their feelings [toward] the cofo facilities and people. today they pushed our car in the gutter, painted one of the girls' cats white, and stole yet another wallet. i wonder if fidel established community centers in the hills for his young friends.

    there is msu, and i really don't know that. i just think that kids respond the best to things that demand the most of them. this has been my opinion with regard to schools, and to work in the movement. i think that if we demanded a quart of blood and 5 hours a day we would be flooded with applicants for the most difficult work we could find. if houstaon had been really knocking himself out for the movement, could he have ever said, "you can't kick us out because you're gonna need us again."

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