As the civil rights movement crept north, the debate became over who was baddest: Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X. Those were our marching tunes. Riots, rallies, mass demonstrations, protests against the police and ongoing heavy political debates were everywhere you went, but especially on the downtown scene. Most of the folks were definitely on the left, save for the Ukranians, PuertoRicans, and blacks who were more indigenous to the neighborhood. The artists were leftists, mostly died-in- the-wool Marxists when I got down here: “Free grass for the working class,” as according to a poem by Pedro Pietri*.
The rent was so low, you could get an entire apartment for $40 a month. People worked about three days a week and after rent and utilities, we still had enough left over to go out eating and hang out in bars and create whatever we wanted.
* Pedro was an impoverished and outspoken Nuyorican poetwho gained popularity with the Village masses before advocating safe-sex during the 1990s.
(c) 2017 James K Beach