What must be written isn't accompanied by the time it deserves. I need a couple of hours to capture Carolyn Goodman's memorial service, which took place Sun, Oct 7, 2007, while it's still fresh. But life is breaking the speed limit at the moment and, having gone to three memorial services in the past ten days, I'm a bit spent. That said, given the others who attended this one--historians, journalists (see Jerry Mitchell's article here), and her extraordinary friends--I know there will be a good public record of a unique memorial for this one-of-a-kind icon of courage, forgiveness, and sophistication, who will forever principally remembered as the mother of Andrew Goodman, one of the three civil rights workers murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964.
Thus, quick notes:
I had left an hour for the subway from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side but the proper train from my stop was not running. At 3:15, I was still waiting for the train I had to take two stations in the wrong direction to get on the right one. The service was to start at 4, but I'd only made it to Lower Manhattan by then. So it was that I was nearly 20 minutes late but just in time for Carolyn's son David's introduction to the first speaker: NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I'd already missed her grandson Ivan's sounding of the ram's horn, her son Jonathan's reciting of Kaddish, Clarissa Sinceno-Taylor's Amazing Grace solo, and the first video of Carolyn's biography.
There were four or five hundred people in the mahogany auditorium of Ethical Culture Society when I arrived; I took a seat just a few rows from the front, on the left hand side.
By the time the Mayor was finished, I'd managed to get out paper and pen. "Carolyn got in the way," Congressman John Lewis said just after coming to the podium with a standing ovation. "She made necessary trouble." He said the three slain civil rights workers (Carolyn's son Andy, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney) "should be called the Founding Fathers of the New America;" and that, despite all, Carolyn "never demonstrated one bit of bitterness," a theme that others echoed. Others being WNBC correspondent Gabe Pressman (after first citing the bad wars, civil rights, he said, was a "good war"); Ben Chaney, the younger brother of James; Sarah Siegel and Allison Marie Nichols, college students whose lives were turned around by meeting Carolyn; NY Times columnist Bob Herbert ("she seemed almost magical"); NY1 reporter Budd Mishkin, who wore the shirt Carolyn always asked him to wear; and his brother, the attorney Doug Mishkin, whom she'd asked to sing "Carry on, my sweet survivor" at her memorial service, which he did; and, here I need to break paragraphs to highlight the powerful speaker...
Dick Molpus, former Secretary of State in Mississippi, who met Carolyn 25 years after the three young men's murders, and the first public official to apologize to their mothers, who also asked two key newsmen to stand: Neshoba (Miss) Democrat editor and publisher, Stanley Dearman, and reporter Jerry Mitchell of The (Jackson, Miss) Clarion-Ledger, "who relentlessly stayed on top of the case," ultimately leading to the conviction of Edgar Ray Killen, who finally went to jail 41 years after masterminding the murders.
And so it went through another dozen speakers: two colleagues from the board of Symphony Space; two from public radio station WBAI (one of whom joked that Carolyn decided that "Heaven clearly needs work" and that "it will be a better place when she's done"; Regina Solano of PACE, a mental health program for mothers of young children that Carolyn founded and ran for many years; Eli Lee, who worked for her at the Andrew Goodman Foundation; Rabbi Bruce Cohen of Interns for Peace, whose board she chaired; her niece, Dr. Cathey Eisner Falvo, and...
The final speaker, Harry Belafonte, who said, "Carolyn Goodman's name will live forever."
The three-hour event ended with a singalong led by VOCE and Friends, gospel singers from Riverside Church, including the signature melody of the civil rights movement, "We Shall Overcome."
As Mr. Belafonte said, "We are fortunate that she lived so long. Hers was the work of noble warriors." Indeed, Carolyn. I was lucky to have met you when I was young and, like those who spoke, have been inspired by your example.
PS: Thank you, David, for organizing and graciously conducting this remarkable tribute to your mother and for including me in the dinner that followed.