Yaakov Sullivan


Facebook Posts 2020

Facebook Posts 2019

Paul DePalma Remembers

I was born in Milwaukee, spending my first nine years
on a quiet street just off the Milwaukee River, N.
6th., taken by the county in 1956 to build Highway 43.
Grew up in an Irish Catholic family, Democrats,
socializers, drinkers, laughers, with the women
playing bridge, sheepshead and canasta. Attended St.
Monica school in Whitefish Bay, a parish which my
grandfather Sullivan had helped found and where my
parents were married in 1937.

In 1956 or ‘57, we were removed from the quiet street
that had been ripped from the city map and found
ourselves on Silver Sring Dr. just off the Milwaukee
River Parkway. My father was in that house until he
moved to assisted living in 2002.

As a kid in school, I read of Dorothy Day and the
Catholic Worker Movement which led me into the civil
rights movement. In the early 60′s I took the bus down
to Center St. walked up to 4th or 5th St. into the
office of the NAACP and told Juanita Carter that I
wanted to join. So I did, the Youth Council of NAACP,
first under the guidance of the gentle Gwen Jackson
and later under the firebrand Fr. Groppi, at that
time, priest at St. Boniface.

Went to the March on Washington in 1963, three national
converntions, served as secretary for the NAACP Youth Coucil
and helped set up a group called YForI, Youth for
Integration, that met in a church on 19th & Center. We
were active in voter registration. Also have many
wonderful memories of working with something called
weekend workshops, run by the Quakers, where high
school kids from various parts of Milwaukke would get
together at a local inner city church, usually St.
James Methodist, and then set out to help with
painting and repairs in local homes. We all would cook
and make a common meal on the Friday night and work
all day Saturday and split up on Sunday morning after
breakfast.

The idealism of the period was boundless
and I think we really felt we were making a
difference. I remember too, convincing my mother to
write the note to the principal of Dominican High
School informing her that I would not be attending
school on a certain Spring day because I was
boycotting classes that day to protest de facto school
segregation in Milwaukee schools. Needless to say, I
was alone from my school among those participating in
the boycott.

My work in civil rights was combined with my love for
theatre which led me to the Porter Players at the
Jewish Community Center. The JCC, on Prospect Avenue
at that time had a wonderful (as I remember it)
theatre department- an adult theatre group, a Yiddish
group (Perhift Players) and the youth group, Porter
players named after Cole Porter. Good years filled
with good work, that did not include my peers from
Whitefish Bay too much but brought me into contact
with all kinds of kids from all around the city.

After graduating in 1965, with the help of Sister
Marie Jerome O.P., now Sister June Wilkerson, who in
her ‘80′s, runs a program out in LA to help former
gang members have their gang insignia tatooes removed,
got into St. Louis University, where I met Godsil, a
black Irish social activist leading the struggle on
our campus. We brought great speakers to campus, two
whom I remenber vividly-Saul Alinsky and poet, W.H.
Auden, to whom I gave a piece of lemon cake after he
read his poems in bedroom slippers and heavily
fortified by the water of life.

This was all during the time of the Vatican II
Council, a time of great upheaval and questioning
within the Church. It was also a time of questioning
in my life, both religiously and sexually.

Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on July 12, 2020

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