40 Years Later, Berkeley, CA

I was two hours early but forty years late and I didn’t want to be that late again!

The announcement was buried in a small article, published in early Oct. 2004, in the San Jose Mercury newspaper. Four decades before, I read about the original rally in the Detroit Free Press newspaper. I was too young to go by myself and was sure that Mom and Dad would not drive me 2,400 miles west for 35 straight hours to attend. But in 2005, I was finally old enough to drive myself to the event. It was less than an hour away and a mere 50 miles north from my home.

The old-timers were there, of course. They brought their school yearbook and various photos showing them in much younger time. Their hair back then was long and their bodies mostly lean; now, many of them were bald and heavier.

They said that during that time, they didn’t understand the significance of their involvement. They were angry. They didn’t know that a movement had been created that would soon sweep through the nation. They were just students, after all.

Howard Dean, the then head of the Democratic National Committee was one of the featured speakers. I shot lots of images there but the image above was my favorite. I wanted to emphasize the surroundings more than the speaker did and kept angling myself to include Gov. Dean, the crowd, the signs and the buildings.

A lot of good photography is about deciding what is most important to show the viewer, and what to keep out of the image. Knowing it was Howard Dean was less important to me than capturing the post-1960s environment. Look at these three images.

"Vote"

Notice the woman (middle of the image) holding the “vote” sign in the third image? For me, that made the shot. The rally was about increasing the amount of Democratic voters and holding the sign, she became the winning shot for me. All the images were taken less than one minute apart; the “vote sign” image was the last shot of this particular series.

And what did those students think of the 40 year anniversary event? They were still angry, among other reasons because the police car that Howard Dean, the chancellor of the university, and the other featured speakers spoke from the top of, faced the wrong way! But I was happy, I finally attended the Free Speech Movement — even if I was 40 years late.

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