The Importance of Harvey Jackins

East Coast and West Coast Leaders Workshops
December 27th, 2015 and January 13th, 2016

Transcript of CD1005

Track 1: Copyright

This audio recording entitled “The Importance of Harvey Jackins”, is copyrighted 2016 by Rational Island Publishers and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers. Rational Island Publishers, 719 2nd Ave N, Seattle, Washington, 98109. These talks were recorded at the East Coast leaders workshop December 27th, 2015 – January 2nd, 2016 in Warwick, New York, USA and the West Coast leaders Workshop, January 13th - 18th, 2016, in Santa Cruz, California, USA

Track 2 and 9: Tim Jackins


How many of you never met my father? Look around. There’s a growing percentage of us. You missed something. You missed something significant. And I wish you had had the chance to be around him and listen to him and watch him. There are recordings of his voice. There are videos of him and they’re good. They give you some sense but you know they are not alive. You really come to understand someone when you watch them interact in a situation you’re in. You understand some things a little differently. He was a very determined individual (Laughter) and we are here because of him. And I want to give people who didn’t have first hand contact with him some idea of the effect he had on lots of different people. It was his caring and dedication and persistence that allowed these ideas to develop. And he developed them from the first accidental discovery in 1950 until he died in July 1999. And he very much dedicated his life to this work.

And many people are in this room now still in counseling because of their personal contact with him. His clarity and his and his caring about everyone showed clearly enough that people could stay around even when their distresses got confusing to them. There was somebody they knew who wouldn’t give up on them. And in trying to figure out how to get some of this out to people who never met him, we decided to have several people who knew him just talk for a minute or two about their relationship with him. So, I want you to hear these people. I don’t know what they are going to say but I know they knew him and I know they knew the importance of him and the role he played in their life. I sort of don’t care what they say. I want you to see that. And there are lots of other people here that knew him. And it’d be fine, if you didn’t know him, to ask somebody else about him in the rest of the weekend after tonight.


Track 3 and 10: Diane Balser


So I met Harvey Jackins when I was 27 years old and he was 55 years old. We met at Brandeis University. And I thought of myself as a revolutionary although quite middle class in many ways, not despite, but was very active in building the early women’s movement as well as anti-war and other things. And he wore a suit and a tie and when I was 50 years old he still looked at me and said “My young adult leader.” (laughter). And when we first met it was clear to me in traditional terms love at first sight, but I wanted this man and I wanted to know him and I think the key thing for me was too, I was a Jew born during the Holocaust and he had taken a very clear stand against fascism. And he also was not liberal and I was steeped in liberalism. And he took stands with me from the very beginning and he didn’t mince words.

I wanted his mind. I wanted a revolutionary mind.

There are a whole group of women, some are in the room others that he saw as great women. You know. And he would say this very openly and I’d never had a man who said you are a great woman. You know. Not you could be a great woman but you are a great woman. When you go back in time well he carried some sexism, he carried other things, but no man at that period of time that didn’t. There is no man at this period of time that didn’t and that’s not a reason for women ever to think that you can’t have a man as your leader even if he is your leader. I don’t think I have been backed by a man as well as I was backed by Harvey. He has phenomenal expectations of me, which are always there in my mind about who I could be.

And he wanted a big women’s movement in counseling and I was the person with others to make that happen. The new women’s movement was so appealing to him. And he would have women come up and criticize him for sexism like he used the word man instead of person. And a woman would get up, in those days you called it speak bitterness. But, he saw, I think, and I saw that it was through these fights that we got to have each other. He would not limit it you know in a certain way. You know he took me that seriously. He took my mind that seriously. I was smart. I was very smart but I didn’t have the mind I have today. I just did not and I would not have had if I had not stayed close to him.

And I think the other thing I’d like to share is that this man really adored women. A woman could walk off the street and if she, if they could make a connection or have a session she was his forever and vice versa is she accepted the offer and it could be large women, it could be short women, it was black women and brown women, young, old it really didn’t make any difference A man can bring women together. A man isn’t inherently a divisive force. So women who had struggles loving each other directly, Harvey was a pivotal force. And the sisterhood of the older women that you see with all of our bullshit, you know and struggles is a lot because we loved him and he loved us.

Track 4 and 11: Lorenzo Garcia


Let’s see I think I met Harvey, I think I was 23 and got sent to a weeklong workshop. I think it was one of his last weeklong workshops in Arizona. You know I was really interested in trying to find a revolutionary organization that would make things right in the world. And so I got there and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It was all these white people and one Mexican and one Chicano 

At some point in the workshop there was open questions. I asked the question, “What do you think of liberation?” I didn’t know what he was going to say and he ended up speaking for about 45 minutes on the topic. And there was an attack a little bit after that. Someone was barking at him some stuff. Harvey tried to listen to this person for a while and finally he just said, “You are full of shit.” And when he said that I thought I think this is an organization I can stick with. (Laughter)

There was a debate at that workshop between the women and Harvey. They wanted to take off their bras. I was a young adult. I was like oh I hope they don’t do that. (Laughter) And Harvey was like no you can’t. No you can’t do that. Well they won. He counseled someone for about two and a half hours one night. Some woman who had been raped by two guys and I have never seen anyone counsel anyone like that ever. And I thought there is something here. There is something here. I think he had high expectations of all of us. He expected more; he wanted more. He wasn’t satisfied with anything less than your best effort. It made you want to try; it made you want to try.

And he, he was a regular person. You wouldn’t think he was anybody else special, just looked like an every day person. A carpenter.

The first Chicano workshop that I organized for him. He came out and there were two women who were sent to the workshop and they had just been oriented to RC and they didn’t really take a fundamentals class but their Area Reference Person was trying hard to make sure she had two that she could send from her area. So she made them say over and over again, pattern person, pattern person, discharge, discharge and a couple of other things. Anyway one of the women went and was sitting talking to someone and it turned out she was talking to Harvey and he was asking her questions about her life and this and that. Afterwards when he started the workshop she came up to me and said (whispering) I thought he was the janitor. He was amazing who he was. I think about him every day. Thank you.

Track 5 and 12: Barbara Love


I met Harvey in 1979. I had been introduced to counseling. I had never meant to be a leader. I had never meant to go to workshops. I only meant to have counseling as just my personal help me get through the day. But I had heard about these Black liberation workshops and for 3 or 4 years, things would happen; I didn’t get to go; and I finally made it to this Black liberation workshop.

And I go in and who is leading this Black liberation workshop? (Laughter) A white man. So (laughing) I was sitting there and I am trying to figure it out, and Harvey is Harvey. Well, for those of you who know him and the rest of you, you will learn over time. But he called me up to do a demonstration—obviously this wasn’t the first thing that happened in the workshop—and he was perceptive, he could look right in, he could see you and he saw me and I started to discharge. And then I said “What the hell am I doing up here crying on the shoulders of a white man?” And I pulled away and I looked at him and he looked at me and I said “Oh, what the hell.” (Laughter) And I buried into him and I sobbed in a way that I probably haven’t since I was a baby. And I belonged to him and he belonged to me forever after.

For the rest of that workshop we would sit and we would talk. He would say, what do you think we should do? I would say who me, I just got here. But I would tell him what I and I think he liked that. And we did that for the rest of our time together until he died. I would tell him what I thought. Sometimes he would tell me that was bullshit and sometimes he thought it was a good idea. And sometimes he would call me on the phone, I was always amazed, he would call me and we would talk. I’ve never had the leader of a major organization call me and talk. And that was kind of extraordinary to me.

When we developed BLCD. So the person who was international liberation reference person at that time was moving out. I had been living in Tennessee. I was moving from Tennessee back to Massachusetts. When I arrived in Massachusetts my sister said this white man has been calling you for two days. He’s just been calling and calling. That was the number he had. I said who was it. It’s somebody named Harvey. I said oh. And so I called him up and he talked to me about what was happening and the transition in leadership and would I, no he wanted me to take the job. I said oh no. I was still under the impression I was just going to like be back over there in the corner and maybe come to a workshop every once in a while cause they had turned out to be pretty useful. (laughter)

 So I named these other people who were leading in RC at the time that I came in maybe they should be the reference person, maybe they should be the reference person, maybe they should be the reference person. He said “No I want you to do it.” And if you haven’t had a conversation with Harvey then you don’t know. (Laughter) But the bottom line is at the end of these conversations I said “Oh all right, I will do it for one year.” That was 1984. (Laughter)

He backed my leadership completely and totally. When I say backed my leadership I mean that he have me his ear, he gave me his time. He told me when he thought my ideas were great and I should move forward. He told me when he thought they were nonsense and or that I should leave them be or I should try a different direction. He was unflinching in whatever he wanted to communicate with me. If I had questions or problems or difficulties I’d call him, we’d talk it through. What do you want me to do? And he never failed to back and give me the support that I thought I needed at that time.

One more thing. He would do the teachers and leaders workshop with BLCD every year. We always thought we were his testing ground. Every new idea that came up we thought he tested it on us first. So we were the vanguard in the development of RC. Understatements we got them. Why do you love me? We got them. Fleety-bell we got them. Standing on the banisters at the gates of heaven looking out, whatever we got it all. And I love the fact he didn’t hold himself back from us in the least little bit. He put himself fully out toward the development of BLCD, the people in BLCD. He gave us himself completely and totally and we grew. And we prospered and thrived under his nurturing.

Track 6 and 13: Steve Thompson


I think one of the things I learned from Harvey was about being tough. He was an incredibly tough man, you know in all the best ways. And uh I made a mistake. I did something once that he felt was not good and he used to teach the Northwest Teachers and Leaders Workshop every summer. It was often at Buck Creek. I have a very clear memory of sitting, there’s a deck that wraps around one side. We were sitting at a table outside. He would meet during meals. You could sign up. And I would make myself sign up. So he would meet with maybe six or seven of us and he would go around and often he would ask how can I give you a hand. And then there would be a chance to lay something out and have Harvey counsel you.

He got to me and he said I have something to talk to you about. And he laid out my mistake. He said it’s a mistake; you have to clean it up. And then he put his hand on me. And every year for 3 years at the workshop I would meet with him and he would go, how is it going cleaning up your mistake and he would counsel me on it. In the 3rd year he goes you’ve done well and we shook hands and he never mentioned it again. (Discharging) It was wonderful to have someone that tough on your side and that’s kind of what he could do. He was fierce and tough but on your side. There was no question where he landed.

I’ll tell one other story. There was someone I cared deeply for who was very ill and was dying, an RCer. I had flown across the country to spend a week in the hospital helping care for them. They were very close to death then. Harvey had led a workshop up in Boston and then got a ride down to the hospital. And when he arrived the doctors were in the room. I was outside the room sitting in a chair. And he walked up and said, “oh are the doctors…?” You know and I said yeah they’ll be awhile. So he motioned to the chair and pulled up the chair. I was exhausted you know. I’d been up a lot of nights. And he looked at me and he said, “Whose woods these are I think I know. Whose woods these are I think I know.” And I stared; I just looked at him. I’m delirious I have no idea what he’s talking about. And I say what? And he said repeat it. And we sat there for half an hour. And he made me repeat each stanza until I could memorize it. Robert Frost’s poem.

Tim: Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though. He will not see me see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow.

Steve: Yeah. Thank you.

Track 7 and 14: Jenny Sazama


So I met Harvey, I think I met him when I was twelve. It wasn’t the first workshop. But the time I got to know him the most was at Liberation 2. There were nine of us young people there. This was the first time that counseling was moving from the one point program to working toward agreeing to work toward each other’s re-emergence to think about liberation being part of the bigger picture. And there were a group of young people there and we met, I don’t know it was a very long workshop. We would meet every day as a group of young people and that’s where we came up with the word adultism. Harvey was an incredible ally to young people. He loved us and he knew that he wanted young people out in the front. We have many funny Harvey stories. But there was one workshop when Jo Saunders did the cooking and we had a very low budget and we had potatoes and cabbage the entire time. And Harvey he would be very serious and on track and at one point we were all laughing cause we were farting so much and Harvey said ok, all right anyone who needs to fart please leave the room. And literally I think half the workshop left and he laughed for 20 minutes. He could not stop laughing. He was on the floor laughing. (Laughing)

At that same workshop he was trying out that attention away from distress thing. he did a demonstration with me for an hour an a half. I was wearing jeans and my jeans were wet. You know he was working with all the adults very carefully about put your attention on your shoe and the window and what do we do next. And there were a group of us as young people that were like why can’t we talk about how much we love life.

And I asked him a question in open questions and he worked with me for a long time and just could match me he could match me as an adult in how much he loved life. 

And I will never forget his eyes. He used to say to me, Jenny, I have to tell you something about people. People are secretly very passionate about each other. I used to ride the bus and watch people and I’d say he’s right. They are just shy and quiet with each other or feel like they don’t want to be around each other but I think Harvey is right.

I remember one session he gave me, he used to counsel you on the phone. One time he decided he had to go run an errand, but he wanted me to keep crying and I (Laughing) I knew if he came back and I wasn’t still crying I was going to be in a lot of trouble. (Laughing) I had this huge session by myself on the phone (laughing) There is one session I use in my mind a lot, it was in Seattle. He just kept saying like this, come, come. He just looked at me. I don’t think I felt so alive in my life. I could just, I was so in love with him and he was so in love with me. We could match in this place that was just very different…. It was just, it was an incredible place.

Track 8 and 15: Mike Ishii


I met Harvey when I was 22 in Ohio. My friend who was the ILRP for Chinese heritage at that time said I think you should come to this RC workshop. He had been trying to get me into RC for years. He would give me sessions but I thought it was too weird and I wouldn’t do a class. So he got me to come to this workshop, it was like 200 white people on a farm. (Laughing) And there was about four Asians that my friend brought. Then so the workshop started and I was terrified. We were sitting in the back row. Then a small group of African heritage, African American women from Toledo came into the room. They arrived a little bit later. And he stopped the workshop and he just went up and embraced each of them. And then he said and we’re going to now work on racism. And I’d never seen, I mean this guy was wearing beads. (Laughing) he was dressed in all white and I thought this is a cult but there was something that I knew was different about this guy. And so he had one of the Black women come up and work on rage. And I was watching this and I thought the audacity to stand in front of a group of 200 white people and create a space for these women and I didn’t include myself in what he was thinking about. At the time I was very new. I didn’t know much. He counseled this woman on rage. I remember him having her hit his arm and just, he kept saying harder, harder. I remember she really went for it and then he laughed and said, well not that hard, I am kind of an old man. (Laughing.)

And then he did a panel with all the Asians. I didn’t know what a demonstration was and so I was on that. He counseled each one of us and I thought I’m not doing this. I don’t know what this is and I’m not showing anything to these you know 200 white people. So I got up there and I heard this wail, you know like the wailing wall wail or the Irish grieving wail, like I heard that and I realized that’s me. And it was coming out of like here and it was about my family. And I just felt so out of control. Who is this man that he can do this and I looked into his eyes as so many of us did and this mind, this presence of the universe looked back and he saw me. It blew me away. I’ve never been looked at so humanly before.

At that time we were still figuring out a lot of things about racism. And at that time he didn’t think of West Asian people as people of the global majority. And so the Asians got together and we talked about it and we said well we don’t agree with that. And then the people of the global majority got together and there was one man I think he was from Syria who was there. He said well I think of myself as a person of the global majority and we said we do too. So I went up during it was Sunday morning at like breakfast. He was having his support group leaders meeting. I didn’t know what that was. And I went up to him into the meeting and I tapped to him on the shoulder and said I need to talk to you about something. And he turned around kind of surprised and said oh, ok. And I said maybe we can talk over here at this table. And so he left the meeting and I said we all talked and we don’t really agree with your perspective and we would like for you to acknowledge that. And he said, he looked at me and he said OK. I will. And he did. And then he sat down at the table and he turned around to me and he said but I want to say one thing to you. And I thought oh here it comes. And he said, next time if you have a problem like that, you don’t have to talk to me in private. You can say that here. And that was when I thought, this guy’s for real.

If you didn’t know him, there was a rigor of that mind that didn’t settle for compromise. He lived that in his daily life. You know he suffered a lot of targeting in his life because of the positions he took on behalf of humanity and he took them often by himself often when no one else would. And he bore the effects of those very stoically. But he insisted if he understood you he saw you, he made a relationship with you and he insisted you fight for yourself on principle. And he saw me. And I to this day I sometimes wonder…you know every person and he backed hundreds and thousands of us. He was on the phone with people around the world. We didn’t have Skype or anything like that. He was always talking and counseling people. And I remember thinking, feeling very special and not understanding why he chose to put any attention in my direction. But that’s how he thought about every person. And if you would meet him, if you would dare to meet him he was joyous about it and he would meet you equally.

And so I knew him kind of near the end of his life. And after that workshop I stayed away from counseling for two years. I was too freaked out. I moved to New York and I eventually got into K’s region and I came to the first workshop here at Warwick and he had lunch with the 4 people of the global majority at the whole workshop.

And he invited me to come to Seattle and I worked as a volunteer there for a summer and it was really because he wanted to counsel me. And I worked in the garden there. I used to joke I was his Japanese gardener, and he understood my potential but he didn’t have a pretense about what I could do. He was very satisfied with who I was in that moment. I remember K said that he called her and he said to her, you must never be disappointed with him because that’s something he can’t handle. And when she told me that I realized he really understood me.

When I got back I wrote him a letter and I said, I always used to collapse into these comas and give up and big drama and one point I even had to leave counseling because of it. And he had left a message on the machine saying “If this is Mike Ishii’s phone number or where he lives will you please give him a message from his friend Harvey Jackins which is I understand that you are struggling and you have left counseling but this is a bad decision so turn your bike around 180 degrees and peddle as hard as you can back toward your friend Harvey”. And that is why I came back to counseling and I would not have been here otherwise. So I wrote him a letter and said you stood by me for years when I couldn’t do it but I am ready now to stand on my own feet. And so I want to release you from your obligation to my survival and I take it back for my own. And he wrote back this letter and said, I wholeheartedly support this, he was very enthusiastic, and he said but if you should ever find yourself face down in the mud on the corner of the street and you could only utter one word, just say my name and I will come. That’s who he was.

[End of transcript]

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Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00