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The Sun State Activist
Meet Barbara Nicholson
Florida's Activist of the Month February 2006

I'm "talking" (via e-mail) with Barbara Nicholson of (appropriately) Sun City Center, the first (again appropriately) recipient of our Activist of the Month award. The prize for this award is a free subscription to The Sun State Activist, a prize to be shared among every visitor to this website. Barbara will be known to many of this site's visitors as the erstwhile B of the Dabonich e-mails as she forwards so many important items of information from progressive websites. I have found her postings to be of tremendous help in the development of this website. The interview follows:

Jerry: Barbara, I wonder if you would give us a thumbnail description of yourself. You know: where and when you were born and grew up, your education, occupations and family---that kind of stuff.

Barbara: I was born on "Decoration Day" 1931 in Sidney, OHIO and am an only child. My mother was birthright Quaker and my Dad raised as Catholic, best parents in the world. We lived with my maternal grandparents and my Uncle Kenny. My Grandma was a playwright & monologuist and had me performing for church groups at age four. She died when I was six and my career as an actress was ended. First Ward, a two room schoolhouse was where my formal education began and I continued on through the Sidney Public Schools to graduate in 1949. The neighborhood "gang" that met often in the alleys and garages was the other major source of my education. My Dad had to drop out of school in 8th grade to support himself as his mother had died when he was about seven and his Dad was the town drunk. He had two brothers and two sisters and the boys were always envious of the girls because they got to go to the orphanage to live while the boys were children of the streets. Today we would call them "At Risk" children. Although my Mom had dropped out of school in 11th grade to work as a linotype operator at the local newspaper she & my Dad both valued education and they managed to send me to Wilmington College, a small Quaker school in southern OHIO. My Dad trained himself to be a "tinner" eventually having his own business as a sheet metal contractor so I grew up in a pick up truck! I still love pickup trucks to this day. I was able to obtain an assistantship in OSU's School of Social Administration after graduating from Wilmington. The summer between college and grad school I was the first white recreation aide employed to work with the Black population at Sciotovillage, the Girls Industrial School of Ohio. My best friend David Nicholson followed me from WC to OSU to get a degree in mechanical engineering and before my first year in graduate school ended we decided to get married and I dropped out of OSU. We married in March of '54 and had daughters in '56, '59 and '61. We moved to Indianapolis, IN in '62 and in 1970 I entered IUPUI's (Indiana U/Purdue U at Indianapolis) Graduate School of Social Service graduating with my MSW in 1972 and becoming a school social worker in the Indianapolis Public Schools. I was also adjunct faculty at Ball State University and IU Grad School of Social Work supervising students in their field training. I also worked for a CETA program focused on literacy and did about two years as medical social worker at the IU Medical Center. We raised our daughters in the Butler Tarkington area a wonderful, diverse integrated neighborhood. We had invested in a big old center hall colonial house there which at one time had four generations living with us! My Mom, David's Mom, us, our divorced daughter and her daughter and it worked because.....David had remodeled and put in three kitchens! That house nurtured our family for 33 years and was home to 4 dogs and 2 cats too! The kids grew up, David retired from Eli Lilly in Dec '93 and I retired from IPS in June '94. We sold the house and moved to Florida full time in '96 first living in Apollo Beach and then moving to Sun City Center 4 years ago.

Jerry: Can you tell us how you got started in progressive political work? Things that happened in the world, country, state or your personal life...whatever? What made you start ticking?

Barbara: My Dad always kept up with things political, reading the news, listening to the radio and eventually TV. Politics were often discussed at our dinner table and my Dad's advocacy for the underdog was transmitted to me big time! My Mom being from a line of strong advocacy Quakers in Logan Co OHIO was also instrumental in developing my interests. I learned just about 10 years ago that my Dad's German roots were Jewish turned Catholic (to save themselves??) and my Mom's Quaker roots were Irish, County Antrim about which Frank McCourt wrote "Angela's Ashes" so.....here I am the product of all that. My peace movement passion was motivated when my cousin Robert Steinle, my age, joined the army in '49 when I left for Wilmington. He was soon declared MIA and eventually KIA in Korea and the entire family was devastated and we have never had closure on this death. His Dad had died of TB several years earlier. Bob's younger brother, Timmy drowned several years before that and grief overwhelmed us all. Aunt Clara's one child left living is her daughter Gretchen who still lives in Sidney OH. The tragedy of war and it's meaning at the personal level hit me hard and my peace actions are my tribute to Bob's memory.

Jerry: How would you describe the kind of progressive work that you have done and continue to do?

Barbara: As a teenager I worked to get school bond issues passed in Sidney, OH. At Wilmington College I was the first white student to have a Black roommate in the early 50's. I also helped to integrate skating rinks, swimming pools, etc...in southern OHIO. As President of Alpha Phi Kappa Sorority I read the names of ALL the females of color on campus at pledge time causing about 6 members to walk out (they came back) of the meeting but, my roommate at that time was Black so what did they expect? I also spoke at a college convocation panel about "Is WC a Christian College" answering "NO' because of the discrimination of the Greek organizations. As a school social worker I advocated for so many people in so many ways there's no time to describe. I will say that I usually spent half of every school day in the hood working with families in need and that I KNOW about the GOOD IN THE HOOD! My other hat, the "Truant Officer" one kept me in close contact with the Juvenile Court and working closely with probation officers on many cases. Before I went to work I was active in the Woman's International League for Peace & Freedom in both Columbus, OH and Indianapolis, IN. Working with the PTA and neighborhood organization as well as on political campaigns of Birch Bayh, Vance Hartke, JFK, RFK, Jimmy Carter, Eugene McCarthy, Poor Peoples Campaign, etc..... In Florida we got involved with the McBride Campaign and organized the Tampa4Kucinich and SCC4Kucinich groups. We helped with the Vets4Kerry group too and helped start the current SCC Dem Club. Recently we have attended about 12 days of the hearing in the Dr.Sami Al Arian case and are appalled that he is not FREE and with his family again since he was found innocent on 8 of the most serious charges. The gov't plans to try him AGAIN and they didn't have a case the first time! They hope they can sway/manipulate /mind control another jury into making the decision the gov't wants....this is disgusting. This hearing was a test of the Patriot Act and the gov't does not want to lose.

Jerry: What do you see as the most effective arenas for progressive action today? Action with the Democratic Party or Progressive Democrats of America, Green Party, direct action campaigns...whatever?

Barbara: Well, I registered GREEN in March of 2005 but have not been active officially as a GREEN because I can't find them! I don't think there are any others in SCC. The lack of backbone and leaning centrist in the Dem Party alienated me and I've found it therapeutic to be GREEN. We were with Dennis Kucinich and his lovely British wife Elizabeth at the Bonita Springs Dem Meeting (now that's a progressive group!) a few weeks ago and Dennis declared himself a "Green Democrat" and I like the sound of that. I do like the PDA but the DFA is more active in the Tampa Bay region. Direct action campaigns are good and I believe in the power of the Internet and so am deeply involved in sharing info and networking in that media. However, I'm needing to slow down a bit to give time to the WINDHUNTER CORPORATION (maritime hydrogen generation system- patent pending) that my husband David & I incorporated. We are currently having a website prepared and hope to have it available in early March to share with you and the rest of the world.

Jerry: Anything else you'd like to say to the people around the state, nation and world who might access this site?

Barbara: Just that last night Jan 19, 2006 we were privileged to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak at the USF Sundome. His focus was on the effectiveness of forgiveness and the futility of revenge. He was astounding, humorous, inspirational and adorable and I wish EVERYONE could have heard him. He has given me hope which I want to pass on to all of you that since South Africa was able to overcome apartheid we know that the USA can overcome our own trauma with forgiveness and hopefully, our own TRUTH & RECONCILIATION commission. I also want to thank all those in the peace, justice and civil & human rights movement for the wonderful network that has sustained me for over 50 years. I couldn't have done anything without YOU! PEACE! JUSTICE! EQUALITY! Join the ACLU, they seem to be doing something about this awful mess we are in.

Jerry: Well, thanks very much, Barbara. I thought I knew you pretty well but I know you much better now and I have to say it's inspiring to realize from your narrative that one can be an activist and still have an active life as a daughter, wife, mother, social worker and all-around fine individual. Like you, I'm a pre-boom (depression) baby and I'm happy to count you among my best friends in that generation and as a friend and inspiration for countless other people from generations past and from those yet to come. Bless you!