Harvey

It was April 1999. I had just gotten back from the Black Liberation and Community Building Workshop that Barbara Love had led and I had organized in England. I had picked up a flier there about Black Liberation and Community Development International Workshop Number Fifteen, to be held in Toronto, Canada, in June 1999, and I wanted to go. I needed financial assistance, and my Area Reference Person said I should be able to get some from International Outreach. I asked, "Do you really think so? Who do I need to talk to?" She replied, "First talk to Harvey." I just laughed. She recommended that I discharge and then go ahead and talk to him.

That was a Wednesday evening. After a lot of thinking, laughing, telling people, and shaking, on the following Tuesday I thought I might be ready to send an e-mail. However, when I looked for his e-mail address in Present Time, on my way to the library to use the computer, I could not find it! I found a phone number instead and decided that on my return I would just have to phone.

Once back from the library I needed several phone sessions to get over my anxiety before I could pick up the phone to call at 10:40 PM England time. The phone rang and was answered promptly by someone in the Seattle office. (Until then it hadn't occurred to me that it might not be Harvey who would answer the phone.) I was told that he wasn't back from lunch yet and that I should call back or leave a message. I waited until 11:15 England time, as long as I could bear it, and was put through to Harvey.

He asked my name, and I proceeded to say, "I wanted to tell you a bit about myself and then ask you something." He interrupted me as soon as I said I was a black woman living in England: "Black as in England or black as in the United States?" I am black as in both, having come from Cyprus and being of African heritage, and I said so. He responded by telling me about leading Middle-East workshops in Cyprus in the 1970s. Then he asked if I spoke Turkish or Greek. When I replied, "Turkish," he proceeded to test my knowledge of the then-one Turkish RCer in England whom I happened to have met years earlier outside of RC. I had discovered recently that she was a Co-Counselor and had contacted her about her identity, as I wanted her to attend the Black Liberation Workshop in England if she identified as black. I told Harvey she had decided, after some sessions, that she didn't. He replied that Turkish wasn't necessarily black and emphasized that it was important to be in touch with her, as she had been valuable in setting up RC in Turkey.

This friendly exchange helped me to relax and to notice that Harvey was another human being, and that it was all right to talk to him. He had me promise to write to him with the details of our conversation because due to "old age" he was susceptible to forgetting. He wanted me to do this straight away.

We talked for fifteen minutes. I told him about my life, about my work in RC, that I had organised the workshop, and that I had started a relationship with Barbara Love. He asked whether I wanted a scholarship to the Black Liberation Workshop in Toronto, and for how much. I gave him the information in English pounds sterling, and he commented, "That sounds like a lot." I said I could try to fundraise for some of it, and he replied, "Oh no, don't disrupt your life." I offered to calculate the amount in dollars so he would know exactly how much it was.

The total came to $720. When I told him this he said, "Well, that is a lot of money. Are you worth it?" I replied that I'd lived my life the RC way long before I knew about RC, that I now lived my life with RC in it, and that I might not have $720 but it was not much money and of course I was worth it. He said I could have all of the money and gave me the person's name I needed to talk to, someone he would also talk to straight away.

After some more talk about arrangements he told me he would like me to write to him often. He also said I could call him anytime I felt I needed to and reverse the charges.

After I put down the phone, I felt exhilarated. I stayed up and wrote a long letter to him recounting our conversation and giving additional information about my life. I mailed it to him along with an article I had written for our Area newsletter about the Black Liberation Workshop in 1998, which he had wanted me to send. Now Harvey felt like a friend I could talk to.

I'm glad I didn't find the e-mail address. I think it was meant for Harvey and me to connect and for me to notice his humanity and generosity of spirit.

I later received a short letter from him in which he reminded me about the difference in the use of the term "black" in England and in the United States, due to the particular version of racism in the U.S. He also asked me to keep in touch with my "fellow Turk," as he put it. He said he was pleased with our connection and sorry he wouldn't be able to attend the workshop in Toronto, as his health didn't permit it, but that by the end of the workshop we would know a lot of the same people.

The Black Liberation Workshop in Toronto was like nothing I had experienced in my life up until then. It was what I imagine the rational, re-emerged world will be like -- with connected, supportive, thinking people. It felt like how life ought to be for every black person on earth.

I could see my significance and my connection to the peoples of the world. I learned that no matter how lonely I might feel in the future, I would never be alone again for the rest of my life. I could see that I was part of a continuous thread that surrounds the world and that I was needed to hold up the hopeful picture I had been given.

I phoned Harvey on my return from Toronto to say thank you. I told him what being at the Black Liberation and Community Development Workshop had meant to me, how much difference his decision to give me the money had made, and that he could be assured that the Co-Counselling Community had received its money's worth. I also told him that the next day I would travel to Brighton to meet six new Turkish Co-Counsellors who were being taught RC in Turkish by my "fellow Turk." I said I would tell them all about the difference Co-Counselling and going to Black Liberation had made in my life.

This was a week before the Worldwide Conference and two weeks before his subsequent death. He thanked me for phoning him to reconnect and report back.

Harvey's contribution to my re-emergence, and thus to the liberation of my Community, here in England and in Cyprus, will continue to ripple for a long time to come.

Dear Harvey, may you rest in peace.

Love and joy and clear thinking to us all.

Serap Kanay
London, England

 


Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07