Cincinnati Loses Another Homeless Activist

Dear MAC,

     On the celebration of your 90th birthday we knew that each day you were here with us it was a gift we treasured. Over the years we slowly witnessed your body, legs, eyes and heart giving you troubles. But you would not let these troubles trouble you. Your determined will reached out even to befriend the pain so that it would not control your life. It was not going to stop you.

     The energy you mustered up to put your ailing body at places your spirit wanted to be amazed us. We won’t forget the day you shocked us at buddy’s memorial march. We were not expecting you, for you were so sick and flat on your back the night before, letting us know your regrets you could not make it. When you wheeled into the park in your chair, covered with a blanket, with face pale and thin, your presence was a healing soothing salve, which moved us deeply.

     I remember the night just after Easter in ’93 we carried you up the dark staircase, to keep watch through the chilly night, getting a few winks of sleep, to be awakened by the sound of the bulldozer, already spraying forceful water hoses up to the second floor where we were holding out to make our last attempt to save the housing owned by Phillipus Church from being turned into a parking lot.

     Mac, you so much understood our fight to save low-income housing. You believed what happened in Over-the-Rhine was a thermometer of what could happen in other low-income communities. You held up our effort as a lightening rod, wanting it to spark the hearts and minds of people citywide, preservationists and politicians to do the just and right thing for the poor and oppressed. In the midst of sound principled actions we would risk together, there were always those moments of sweet support. On that day when we were carried off to jail. And the sexes were held in separate holding cells. Four men and one woman. I won’t forget how I called out to you, buddy, Wilbur and Berta, and you responded in kind with singing voices. That sweet support lifted me.

     Mac, you gave our effort such consistent support over the years. Your friendship felt very special. We knew you held us in a special place in your heart. You were with us at City Hall time and time again. Your voice for the homeless and ill housed was relentless. You fasted so that we might win negotiations with the City in regards to replacement housing when we lost the Milner. You helped us evict the Governor’s furniture from his office in Columbus so that we might make a point about the mean spirited cut off of General Assistance.

You always stood with us when Drop Inn Center and ReSTOC were under political attacks. The list is long. You were always there for us. Your presence was powerful. You possessed a gentle strength. We listened to your stories and learned from your long life. We marveled at your memory and how you could pull up so many quotable quotes. Your was mind so sharp, taking every opportunity in circles you encountered to put the challenge out there that we need to work for a kinder, gentler nation where all people could live free and with dignity.

     You humbly accepted the St. Francis Xavier medal on December 7th at Xavier University and spoke so eloquently and challengingly on so many of the issues that were dear to your heart and life. We from Over-the-Rhine were so happy to celebrate with you that day. We felt proud of you, but somehow you made us feel proud of ourselves, too. For when you speak you call up the long history of struggle and freedom which connects us to a spiritual source that deepens our conviction that someday justice will roll down like the rivers.

     When many of us last saw you, on December 21st in Washington Park for the annual remembering of those persons dying homeless on the street, we were not thinking that you, MAC, so soon would be joining your sisters and brothers whose names we called out that day. Thank you for being with us around the fire barrel.                         I shall not forget that hug. And I know that when you went from this world to the spirit world on December 30th, our Over-the-Rhine effort embraced you with welcoming arms with a hug from buddy.

     We trust you are resting in peace but be assured your spirit is in our hearts. And we know our lives and our neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine benefited a hundredfold from having you sojourn with us. We shall not forget you. Many of us are graced with poems that you wrote on occasions of our birthdays or special anniversaries. We enjoyed singing and partying with you. And thanks too for all the phone calls and visits you made to check in about our health or our family’s lives. Most of all, Mac, thanks for your years of friendship, personally and communally. You were always there for us.

with love,

Bonnie Neumeier
For the Over-the-Rhine Peoples Movement

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24