When I tell stories about my life, a common response is curiosity or amusement. Those responses prompted me to write this book.
After sharing an early draft of this preface with friends, one responded, “The list of accomplishments…is very moving and inspiring, and reflects your exceptional sense of integrity. You should be proud, Wade!” But I didn’t believe her.
Until I had written a large portion of the book, I had focused more on my failures and weaknesses than on my successes and strengths. Now, after reflecting on my life as a whole and revealing some secrets that had been hidden, I have greater self-confidence and more self-respect.
For more than 45 years, my primary commitment has been to foster the development of compassionate communities whose members support each other in their efforts to become better human beings, grow democratic communities that serve as models for how we can improve our society, and engage in political action to help change public policies. I believe that efforts in each of these areas can strengthen efforts in the other areas. This book reports on my persistent efforts to foster the growth of such communities and promote fundamental social change.
Another consistent thread in my life has been the pursuit of truth, justice, and beauty. If one experiences beauty, one becomes loving and wants others to be treated fairly, which requires knowing what is true. If one discovers truth, one experiences the beauty of being in harmony with the life force that energizes and structures the universe (which some call God), and one wants to help foster such experiences in a more just world. If one senses what is just, one wants to know how to facilitate reconciliation and unity, which is the essence of beauty. In these ways, truth, justice, and beauty are three sides of the same reality.
From early on, I’ve relentlessly tried to figure out myself, the world around me, and what it all means. I’ve tried to help improve governmental policies in order to reduce and prevent suffering. And I’ve tried to enjoy life, be happy, love others as I love myself, and avoid both selfishness and self-sacrifice, partly so that I can better serve others.
As a young child, I lived with little indoor plumbing on a small farm outside Little Rock, where my grandfather molded me into a Little League super-star and my mother, a rare White anti-racist in Arkansas, taught me the Golden Rule and other spiritual precepts. At seven, we moved to Dallas, where my father managed a theater in an African-American ghetto, and I attended mediocre schools that failed to challenge their students.
When I was fourteen, my grandfather suffered a stroke after getting agitated while watching me play baseball and died that night, for which I felt responsible.
The next year I discovered the Dallas Public Library and an exciting world of new ideas, especially the works of Bertrand Russell, H.L. Mencken, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and other iconoclasts. Most of my high school teachers, who were steeped in the Christian fundamentalism and anti-Communist orthodoxy that dominated Dallas at that time, did not appreciate my free thinking.
In 1960 every junior was required to take a course on “Anti-Communism,” which ironically led me to the University of California at Berkeley (after I persuaded my mother to support me by giving her an offer she could not refuse).
In less than two months, the Cuban Missile Crisis frightened the whole world and I went to my first political demonstration.
At my student co-op where I ate meals and eventually served in leadership positions, two graduate students introduced me to contemporary theologians who translated fundamentalist Christian myths into language that made sense to me.
My second semester I discovered Bob Dylan, whose music affected me profoundly and has inspired me ever since. And I heard James Baldwin speak on campus, which left me with tears rolling down my face. I proceeded to read everything Baldwin had written.
Early the next year I became immersed in the civil rights movement and thereafter many movements associated with the Sixties, including anti-war, human potential, student power, black liberation, women’s liberation, sexual liberation, gay liberation, the counter-culture, and People’s Park.
In 1967, at the age of 23, I dedicated my life to organizing “communities of faith, love, and action” and studied theology for two years at the Pacific School of Religion. There I co-conducted “A Sort Of Modern-Day Dionysian Rite” in the chapel and helped organize the New Seminary Movement, which led to me being expelled by the President, only to be reinstated by the Board of Trustees.
In 1969, I moved to San Francisco to work as an intern minister at Glide Church and its National Sex and Drug Forum, whose methods included showing social-service workers erotic and pornographic movies.
While demonstrating nonviolently in support of the Black Panther Party during a police raid on their Los Angeles office, the police beat me severely and charged me with felonious assault on a police officer, resulting in convictions on two misdemeanors.
Following my Glide internship, I decided to stay in San Francisco and do community organizing on my own, unaffiliated with any established organization.
My first project was the Alternative Futures Community, which conducted weekend marathon Urban Plunges addressing women’s liberation, gay liberation, racism, and the need for radical political action.
I then had a very bad LSD trip that lasted for months and landed me in two mental hospitals, including one in Dallas where I had worked as an orderly. My therapist was my former boss who had become a friend in the interim.
After I recovered, I initiated or co-founded a number of community-based projects focused on a variety of issues, including men’s liberation, alternatives to psychiatry, public transit, food coops, a low-income housing coop, job creation, a neighborhood cultural center, national antipoverty policy, and corporate power. In addition, I participated in efforts initiated by others focused on issues like rent control and high-rise development, as well as anti-war campaigns, including reporting from Baghdad for the Iraq Peace Team during the U.S. invasion.
These efforts resulted in some victories, some unplanned benefits, and other resounding defeats. Through it all, I kept plugging away, addressing unmet needs, and planting seeds.
I then took a break to step back and reevaluate the “progressive movement” with which I had identified. With others, I co-convened a series of Strategy Workshops, two Compassionate Politics Workshops, and a workshop on the “Holistic Gandhi-King Three-fold Path,” which integrates personal, social, and political growth.
These efforts led me to self-publish 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 – and 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 and circulated “The Personal, the Social, and the Political: A Survey.”
[to be updated later]
Though I’ve had numerous rewarding intimate relations with women, I’ve never been married and have no children, partly because I’ve been so focused on my community work. Humanity is my family. One lover who left me three times and is still a good friend, Janelle Jones, calls me Wade “Save the World” Hudson. I miss not having children, but for every loss there is a gain and one of the children I helped raise, Brandon Faloona, honored me with the name of his first son, Azure Wade Faloona.
For money, after hustling money from foundations for twenty years, I decided in 1989 to drive taxi part-time, which left me free to do whatever community work I wanted to do while living simply. In 2000, I got my own taxi permit, which provides me with a comfortable income and enabled me to become co-owner of Yellow Cab Cooperative.
I would never have written this book without strong encouragement from numerous people I respect. In particular, the following friends have provided key support:
• Mike Larsen, long-time literary agent and good friend.
• Dave Robbins, retired English Literature professor, who greatly influenced me when I was a freshman and he was a graduate student.
• Leonard Roy Frank, editor of the Random House Webster’s Quotationary, who has been a dear friend for more than 40 years and knows me very well.
• Roma Guy, founder of the Women’s Building in San Francisco with whom I’ve collaborated off and on for 40 years.
• Sharon Johnson, former legislative aide to Supervisor Harry Britt and Assemblyman John Burton, who’s known me and my work for almost 40 years.
• Numerous subscribers to Wade’s Weekly, where I posted early drafts of several chapters.
Thanks to their support, at the age of 69, in mid-October 2013, I brought my correspondence, journals, and other documents with me to Las Terrenas the north coast of the Dominican Republic to refresh my memory to work intensively on this book for several months.
Writing this autobiography has helped me better understand my life and clarify my own thinking. Writing pushes me to follow my thoughts to their logical conclusion, which leads to new thoughts and new ways of acting in the world, as I create myself.
And the process has been liberating. The more transparent I am, the more easily I overcome fears associated with being honest. The more I bring secrets out of the closet, the less ashamed I am and the more I accept myself. Because I wrote this book, in certain respects, I feel like a different person. I’ve gone through lots of changes over the years and will likely doing so in the future. Every so often, I feel like “a new man,” though I remain essentially the same, and hope to continue to evolve. Or maybe I’m just “more of who I am,” to use a phrase I heard from Mike Larsen.
Reading my journals and correspondence and reflecting on my life illuminated for me how from an early age I have struggled to feel free to be myself, to be true to my deepest self – while at the same time accepting my responsibility as a human being to help relieve the suffering I’ve seen all around me.
But I was constantly tormented by feeling that I had to prove myself, to others and to myself. Afflicted with deep-seated guilt that was unintentionally instilled in me by my wonderful, loving mother, I was constantly comparing myself to others and always coming up short. I was too anxious about what others thought about me and didn’t feel I had accomplished all that much. Being insecure, my ability to freely engage in open, honest relationships was limited — whether in love, politics, or society at large.
Before, I would beat myself up for not fulfilling my dreams. Believing that our society could be improved fundamentally and comprehensively, I pushed to make it happen quickly. I was very ambitious and often focused on goals that were not realistic. Aided by the process of writing this book, my perspective has changed.
Now I tell myself what I told my father on his death bed. When he lamented not having been a better father, I said, “You did the best you could.” Given our limitations, that is all we can do.
In recent years, I’ve decided the “left-right” continuum makes no sense and concluded that our society is dominated by a “crony capitalism” which is an unholy alliance of Big Government and Big Businesses. Both “liberals” and “conservatives” reinforce that system. I now more clearly see the weaknesses of “the left” and positive values affirmed by those who identify with “the right.” Instead I now affirm “compassionate populism” and analyze what works best to “promote the general welfare” (as stated in the Preamble to our Constitution). I still aim to make our society more truly democratic and caring, but now I look at each issue independently without regard to any predetermined ideology.
I still have my vision of a “new” society. Without vision, we perish. But that vision is no longer a blueprint. If we knew in advance what a “transformed” society would look like, it would not be transformation, but just another manufactured product.
By sharing this book, I hope you will be entertained by an interesting story and learn something from my mistakes and how my worldview has shifted – though you will surely come to some conclusions that differ from mine. And maybe you will be inspired to deepen or continue your own efforts to improve yourself and our world.
By clarifying my thinking and sharing who I am, I hope to connect with more people who are committed to supporting one another with their self-development, community building, and political action in order to nurture compassionate communities and a greatly improved society dedicated to the well-being of all humanity.
Regardless, I welcome your feedback.
Wade Lee Hudson