Copyright © 2014 by Wade Hudson
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography
Wade Hudson —Web edition
Published in the United States of America
For Azure Wade Faloona, the future.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
A day will come when you will trust you more than you do now and you will trust me more than you do now. We will trust each other. I do believe, I really do believe in the New Jerusalem. I really do believe that we can all become better than we are. I know we can. But the price is enormous and people are not yet ready to pay.
— James Baldwin
As a longtime community organizer and social activist, I’ve written this story of my life in the hope that it will be useful to you, dear reader, as you strive to more fully love yourself, others, and life itself. In these pages, I’ve honestly portrayed my own halting personal growth as an active participant in some of the most important cultural and political movements of our times. I reveal many sides of my personality, acknowledge my mistakes, report how I’ve changed, and share my current recommendations for action. I hope these testimonies from the heart, and the social struggles they reflect, make my story interesting, and provide some assistance to concerned individuals who want to steadily improve themselves and the world.
The civil rights movement, which was inspired by the holistic nonviolence of Mahatma Gandhi, provided me with my first experience of deep community. White participants in that movement weren’t merely helping African-Americans. We were also helping each other become better human beings. We saved our souls by fulfilling our social responsibility. In loving others, we loved ourselves more deeply. I’ve tried to rediscover that experience ever since, with varying degrees of fleeting success.
This book traces my efforts to grow in ways that increase my own capacity for compassion. Learning how to engage in effective compassionate action does not come easily. It matures through the hard process of meeting life’s challenges. To nurture that growth, we need peer support. If communities combine internal activities aimed at the mutually-supported personal growth of their members with external activities aimed at eliminating root causes of needless suffering, both efforts, the personal and the political, will be strengthened.
Until recently, my quest was semi-conscious. What motivated me was partly just below the surface of my awareness. Writing this book helped me better understand what I really want and why.
I know I am not alone. Countless numbers of others seek deep community. If we acknowledge that need and act on it, maybe we can figure out how to support one another in meeting that need and fulfilling our human potential. Growing deep community is no cake walk. But if we learn from our mistakes, we can do it. I wrote this book to communicate what I’ve learned about my deepest desires, hoping to encourage readers who experience similar desires to pursue satisfaction, and let others know what happens.
From what people tell me, my life of seventy years has been a remarkable one, marked by Sixties-inspired adventure and experiment, and relationships and collaboration with a host of creative people. Since I was fourteen, my instinct has been to buck “the system,” form caring connections, enjoy an authentic life, and try to improve our society. In 1967, I dedicated my life to organizing “communities of faith, love, and action.” That commitment has ever since provided my life with meaning and purpose.
After participating in the civil rights, anti-war, student, human potential, and other movements associated with the Sixties, I initiated or co-founded a number of community-based projects focused on a variety of issues, including educational reform, men’s liberation, alternatives to psychiatry, public transit, food co-ops, a low-income housing co-op, job creation, a neighborhood cultural center, and national antipoverty policy. In addition, I contributed to efforts initiated by others that focused on issues like corporate power, rent control, high-rise development, and the Iraq War. Those projects resulted in some victories, some unplanned benefits, and some resounding defeats. Through it all, I kept plugging away, addressing unmet needs, and working on my personal and spiritual development.
In 2004, I took a break from my organizing to step back and explore new strategies to promote fundamental social change. I reviewed some old books that had previously influenced me, read some new literature, initiated a series of strategy workshops, circulated a number of online surveys, continued to be active in various organizations, and engaged in extensive dialog with a wide range of individuals. The most recent in that series of workshops was held in January 2013 at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, which was co-founded by Howard Thurman, the first African-American to meet with Mahatma Gandhi and a major mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since 2004, I circulated fourteen questionnaires that were completed by more than four hundred respondents and consulted or collaborated with scores of individuals, including the following authors and community leaders: Michael Albert, Dean Baker, Larry Bensky, Rev. Dorsey Blake, Kazu Haga, Philip Harvey, Aileen Hernandez, Rev. William Homes, Claudia Horwitz, Jakada Imani, Taj James, Van Jones, Paul Loeb, Julianne Malveaux, Eva Paterson, Wilson Riles, James Vann, John Vasconcellos, and Howard Zinn. Many, if not most, of those hundreds of individuals have resonated with my interest in fostering compassionate communities whose members support one another in their personal and political growth. Those allies have provided important encouragement for me to proceed with my quest.
Over the years, I self-published two books that are posted on the Web: Economic Security for All: How to End Poverty in the United States; and Global Transformation: Strategy for Action. I also published three booklets: Promoting the General Welfare: A Campaign for American Values; The Compassion Movement: A Declaration; and Baghdad Journal. Since October 2010, I’ve published a blog, Wade’s Weekly. In late 2013 I started publishing Wade’s Wire, to which I post no more than one item each day. And in early 2014, I launched Wade’s Monthly, an Internet listserv. While writing this book, I wrote the Guarantee Living-Wage Job Opportunities petition, engaged in other efforts to promote full employment, and, in my continuing exploration of how to nurture holistic political communities, circulated “The Personal, the Social, and the Political: A Survey.”
To make ends meet as a community organizer, for twenty years I hustled grants from foundations and worked with non-profit organizations. Then in 1989 I decided to drive taxi part-time, which left me free to do my community work as a volunteer while continuing to live simply on a poverty-level income. In the year 2000, I got my own taxi permit, which boosted my income considerably.
Thanks to the encouragement of several close friends, I began writing this autobiography in mid-October 2013. I took my correspondence, journals, and other documents to Las Terrenas on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, where I refreshed my memory and worked intensively on the book for several months. Then I rented a cabin at Lake Tahoe, where I worked on it for several more weeks, until I returned to San Francisco to finish it.
This self-published book is my statement. The only person who read the first print edition prior to publication was Robert Anschuetz, my excellent line editor who focused on helping me clarify my intended meaning, rather than suggesting substantive changes.
I primarily distributing that edition to individuals I discuss in the book (as well as some consultants). After receiving feedback from those readers, I decided to post the book to the Web chapter-by-chapter, after making some minor corrections. I also hope to write and publish a second, much briefer print edition, with an index, photos, an appendix with resources, and a Foreword by a prominent individual.
I’ve tried to be transparent in recording what has been most important to me in my life. In so doing, I’ve attempted to avoid divulging private information that was given to me in confidence. However, discussing instances of conflict or disappointment concerning people who are still alive is a delicate matter. Even if one aims to be fair and accurate, the individuals involved can object to how the writer characterizes the situation or even resent that it is becoming public. So, wanting to be sensitive to those feelings, I decided to offer a free copy to people I discuss in the book and ask for their feedback before deciding how to proceed.
Their feedback was very helpful. Prior to writing the next print edition, I will thoroughly review their comments and post a reply.
If you want to receive the Web-edition chapters and other posts about the book as I post them, you can subscribe to the blog at www.DeepCommunity.org. You can also comment on the book at that site or send feedback to wadeATwadehudsonDOTnet. I will correct and update the Web version as needed.
Once the new book is in shape, I’ll offer cash prizes in a contest to name chapter titles and a title for the book. So stay in touch!
I appreciate your interest and would welcome your comments.
Wade Lee Hudson
September 29, 2014
I would never have written this book if numerous individuals had not urged me to do it. In particular, the following friends have provided important encouragement:
- My sister, Mary Hudson, who has been a consistent source of support for decades and is my best friend.
- Dave Robbins, a retired English Literature professor, who expressed great enthusiasm about this book.
- Leonard Roy Frank, editor of the Random House Webster’s Quotationary, who has been a dear friend for more than forty years and knows me well.
- Roma Guy, founder of the Women’s Building in San Francisco, with whom I’ve collaborated off and on for forty years and who has repeatedly recommended that I write more.
- Mike Larsen, a literary agent and good friend, who in response to an early draft of the preface said, “You definitely have had a life worth writing about. Your preface proves that.”
- Sharon Johnson, former legislative aide to Supervisor Harry Britt and Assemblyman John Burton, who’s known me and my work for almost 40 years, and told me, “The list of accomplishments … is very moving and inspiring, and reflects your exceptional sense of integrity. You should be proud, Wade!”
- Numerous subscribers to Wade’s Weekly, my blog where I posted early drafts of several chapters of this book.
- I am also deeply indebted to Robert Anschuetz, who helped me rewrite the book with valuable line editing, and the friends, associates, lovers, books, movies, music, communities, and institutions that helped shape me into the man I am. I trust the book will make my appreciation clear.