Update about Isaac’s videotaped interview: Click on the links below for the 28-minute Isaac Lowe interview; videotaped and produced by Bob Belongie of Belongie Entertainment Enterprises in Redding, which he divided into three sections and uploaded into YouTube clips.
Update: about Isaac’s health: Some who remained at the MLK Center toward the end of Saturday’s celebration reported that Lowe became ill and was taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center where she was treated and later released. Sunday afternoon a friend of the Lowe family said that Lowe was home resting, and that she was feeling better.
Everyone at Food for Thought: A News Cafe sends Lowe our most sincere wishes for a full and speedy recovery.
Earlier this month Bob Belongie of Belongie Entertainment Enterprises and I met at Isaac Lowe’s Redding home to videotape an interview with her.
Lowe is an 87-year-old, smart, articulate dynamo and activist. Some call Lowe the matriarch of Redding’s African American community. Others call Lowe a civil rights champion. Many say she’s both.
Lowe let us record her discussion about Lowe’s lifetime of advocacy, her trip to Washington, D.C., for Barack Obama’s inauguration, and last, her thoughts about being honored for Shasta County Celebrates Living Black History Month at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Redding.
“They gave me the whole month,” she said with a laugh.
“A whole month! What am I going to do with a whole month?”
Isaac spoke to us from a wooden chair beside her dining room table in the home her late husband, Vernon, built for them many years ago. Walls are covered with family photographs, pictures of Martin Luther King Jr., and most recently, of Obama, whom Lowe refers to as “my man.”
Nearly every horizontal surface holds papers, files, photographs and scraps of notes. That’s because Lowe’s dining table serves as her headquarters, a historical worksite from which Lowe has made countless phone calls, written decades’ worth of letters and organized more than half a century of civil rights work.
Belongie set up his entire Jeep-load of equipment – microphones, cameras and lights – in Lowe’s dining room.
We were just a few minutes into her interview when Lowe’s phone rang, which startled us because we’d thought we’d unplugged it. Apparently Lowe’s phone couldn’t be disconnected.
We stopped the interview while Lowe took the call. Someone on the other end needed Lowe’s help with something. She listened for a while, made some suggestions and then told the person she had company and had to go.
We resumed the videotaping, until Lowe’s phone rang again, so we paused long enough for her to take the call; another request for Lowe’s help and advice. Before we ended the hour-long interview, the phone rang yet one more time, for a similar reason.
But between the phone calls, she talked about growing up a black woman with a man’s first name, her father’s namesake, and of the advice he gave her before he died, when she was just 5.
She talked about what Redding was like for African Americans in Redding in the ’50s.
She talked about work for equality that remains unfinished, and specific wishes for Redding.
She talked about one project that’s dear to her heart, and her hopes for its success.
Saturday afternoon Lowe entered the MLK Center – the very one she helped found – dressed in a flowing outfit resplendent in swirling shades of aqua, purple, black, blue and green. A grand black hat sat atop her head.
She sat in the front row as a parade of speakers, singers and dignitaries recognized Lowe with words of praise – spoken, written and sung.
The building was standing-room only; a wonderfully diverse collection of a few hundred people of all ages and ethnicities.
The crowd ranged from babes in arms to elderly with canes; from understated citizens to such local notables (whom I recognized) as Mary Stegall, Redding City Council; Jerry Benito, Shasta County District Attorney; Tom Bosenko, Shasta County Sheriff; Les Baugh, Shasta County Board of Supervisors; Rod Lindsay, Shasta Lake City Councilman/Indian educator; Gracious Palmer, Shasta Lake City Mayor; Dave Meuer, on behalf of U.S. Rep. Wally Herger; Lt. Sid Riley, retired Redding Police Department, and Tom O’Mara of Shasta County Citizens Against Racism, representing Not In Our Town.
(Forgive me for those I missed.)
Many speakers highlighted Lowe’s major accomplishments:
• Vernon and Isaac Lowe chartered NAACP’s Redding branch in the ’50s.
• Her NAACP letter was entered into the Library of Congress in the ’70s.
• She was the first black woman employed by Shasta County.
• She was the first black woman to serve on Shasta County’s Grand Jury, appointed to that position by Judge Richard Abbe.
• She was a founding member – and the first president – of Shasta County Citizens Against Racism.
• She was Redding’s 1992 Citizen of the Year.
• She appeared each year – for more than 13 years – to ask the Redding City Council to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a legal holiday, which became a reality in Redding in 2002.
• She was elected as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention.
Nearly two hours later the program’s presentation portion was over.
People formed lines toward tables covered with such offerings as chicken, ribs, corn bread, collard greens and pies*.
And people formed lines toward Lowe to hug and congratulate her.
It was quite a day.
But then, Lowe is quite a woman.
Special thanks to Bob Belongie of Belongie Entertainment Enterprises for videotaping Lowe’s interview, editing it, producing it and adding photos, including those of the AME Church in Redding.
Note: *Wednesday’s food section will feature Soul Food, in honor of Saturday’s Living Black History event at the MLK Center.