By FREDI WASHINGTON PV's Theatrical Editor May 25, 1946 p. 22
THIS PAST WEEK has seen two monster demonstrations by veterans in New York. Assisting the vets were folks from every walk of life, with theatre people high up on the list. Unlike the veteran of World War I, the '46 vet took literally promises made him in the fox-hole. He had a better opportunity to improve his understanding of how to achieve a better world, to improve his skills and above all, to learn to have the courage of his convictions. It is this conviction which was responsible for the Veterans' Emergency rally which was held at Madison Square Garden under the auspices of the Independent Citizens' Committee of Arts, Sciences and Professions, last Thursday night.
Veterans, unemployed, employed, handicapped, with homes, without homes, Negro, Japanese, Chinese, Jewish, white, all packed into Madison Square Garden for the purpose of listening to and acting upon proposals made by those they had commissioned to speak for them. Equally as intent on pressuring our legislators into action on housing, OPA, rent ceilings, socialized medicine, friendship between this country and the Soviet Union, FEPC, etc., were thousands of rank and file citizens.
Serving as chairman for this gigantic rally, was the very recently discharged from the Navy, Gene Kelly. While there was entertainment by Kitty Carlisle, The Golden Gate Quartet and Susan Reed, this was not an affair just for pleasure or entertainment. It was a fighting rally and singer Frank Sinatra, actress Olivia De Haviland, actor Joel Fluellen, actor Howard Da Silva, dancer-actor Gene Kelly, screen writer Marion Hargrove, were right in there pitching along with vet Kenneth Kennedy, Tom Neill (CIO), Senator Claude Pepper, editor Ralph Ingersoll and Russell Nixon.
Sinatra said he was intolerant of the word tolerance. "To tolerate" said Sinatra, "means to show good-natured forbearance towards those with whom we disagree, or whose skins are shaded differently than ours. It has the implication that some people being superior to others are willing to be big about allowing their inferiors to live on the same earth with them." The Voice went to town on discrimination. He said: "I am most intolerant of parents who pass on their own prejudices to their children, communities which do nothing to prevent the sort of hatred and bitterness which I encountered recently when I visited Gary, Ind."
Marion Hargrove, who hails from the south and got out of a sick bed to be on hand for both the Garden rally and Operation Housing which. took place at the 69th Regiment Armory last Saturday afternoon, gave some appalling facts on what is happening to the vets--1,500,000 vets unemployed, 211,00 without homes in New York City alone, nine out of ten disabled vets still unable to find work, and 20 applicants for every one white collar job, 15 for every industrial job. "Pay," said Hargrove, "is forty-five dollars a week tops, with the average take-home pay $27 to $30."
Continuing, the writer said: "For some veterans there is another problem, not calculated in the cost of living. Since the end of the war there have not been at least a dozen known cases of veterans being lynched--because they were Negro or Mexican or Japanese-American--twelve men who had fought for the belief that all men are created equal--murdered because of the color of their skin. For thousands more there has been a special refined kind of lynching--bloodless, polite daily lynching of restricted residential sections, college quotas, discriminatory hiring."
Hargrove, like Senator Pepper, Kelly, Kennedy and the other speakers drove home the fact that "Nothing can happen to 15 million men without it also happening to the whole nation. We must act together. We can act in a hundred ways and with a hundred weapons."
All these things said so dramatically by Sinatra, Hargrove, Kelly and the rest, had a perfect right to be said. Our boys, black and white alike, fought desperately not so long ago for a democratic world they had every right to believe they would come home to. Their blood soaked into the soil of Africa, Italy and Germany. And they did not complain. They came home maimed and with tortured minds. But still they did not complain.
But they are raising a howl now because they are not finding the jobs they were promised. Many of them have no homes. And the government is making only feeble gestures to see to it that they are properly housed. Unlike the heroes of World War I, our boys, their ears still ringing with roaring guns of the battlefields, are ready to carry on a fight for a right life for their future and the future of their sons and daughters. They are fighting for these things peacefully now. But they have spilled blood once in their lifetime for democracy and they will spill it again.
What we who carried on on the homefront while they fought abroad need to do, is to stand like a granite bulwark behind them, and I swear that their fight will not be in vain. And I swear that there will be not one drop of blood spilled either.
Carrying the fight for housing further, Operation Housing on Saturday brought to the 69th Regiment Armory 11 Congressmen including Congressman Wright Patman whose vet housing bill has been shuttled back and forth and wound up being amended to the extent that it is ineffectual. Patman, who is from Texas and in New York for the first time in 10 years, received the kind of support from 5,000 vets that will give him renewed confidence to fight for their rights. Again in the heat of the battle were fighting artists, Josh White, Lucille Ball of the movies, Henry Morgan, radio, Kelly and Hargrove.
"Don't think the boys didn't hit their congressmen on legislation against discrimination. They did, and how."
. . .
TO SHOW THAT THESE guys who fought with guns to make the world safe for democracy are equally as determined to win their rights with political pressure, there is another group out after the Rankin-Wood Committee on Un-American Activities. This group is called Veterans Against Discrimination. A big rally will be held Thursday night, May 23, at Manhattan Center to drive home the necessity of running this red-baiting committee out of existence and also to raise funds to carry on their work against discrimination wherever it be found. Tickets can be had at VAD offices, 55 W 42 st, Room 209.
Thank God for the vet. He has learned how to fight and stick with the battle taking all of its inconveniences until victory. He is teaching us how to make the necessary sacrifices in order to win. Together we will win despite the obstacles placed in our path by those would divide and rule.