a tribute by Edward Flaherty
Coming from Air Force brat, Jesuit, and Orange Country high school roots, I was not prepared for Herman Blake.
Herman passionately, but logically, dismantled most of this wide-eyed freshman’s basic assumptions and beliefs. But rather than leave me lurching from one ideology to another looking for a replacement foundation, Herman taught me that one doesn’t need an ideology: you can find a correct path with wisdom, empathy, and critical observation.
Besides being thankful that Herman challenged and radically changed my worldview, I am very grateful to him for sending me to Daufuskie Island with Zach Sklar as one of the ‘California Boys.’
Catapulted out of our progressive and rational Ivory Tower, we landed in a world schemed up by Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll and George Wallace.
We were totally unprepared for the amazing characters and intense situations we encountered. Our book-learning theories of politics and community organizing ran smack into the real world, and we buried our theories one cold morning as we dug a grave for our friend Doonie, who had caught himself on barbed wire and slowly frozen to death during the night.
The clatter of our shovels digging into the icy ground shattered every thesis, antithesis, axiom and schmaxiom we held dear. These were real people we were trying to help and they were all about survival. Power to the People and Black Power Salutes were as alien to them as they were to my surfer buddies hanging ten at the San Clemente pier.
We saw that politics is even more intimate than being local: It is the one-to-one interaction that may or may not eventually change a person’s way of thinking and acting. It was a very valuable lesson, and it has helped me through countless situations.
Herman, you and your teaching and your programs profoundly and positively influenced my life and the lives of many others.
We all thank you very much for what you are, what you have done, and your lasting influence on us and future generations.