Mabel Hampton at the LHA table, c.1980
Nancy Johnson and Joan at a
meeting of the Lesbian Illness
Support Group, NYC, 1970s
I learned from Mabel Hampton to honor the visitations of the dead in our dreams. She swore by the power of the elements--whether they be a house number or white cat or a book left open--that made their way into her sleep, her time of real visions. I do not have Mabel's dream book, the one that helped her decipher the nightly messages--and often led to just the right number being played--but Nancy's presence was so strong last night, I do not need another text. So much pushes at me to write about on this miracle of shared remembering--the contemporary rending of the heart as I read Mamoud Darwish's writing and enter deeper and deeper into the anguish of exile, the hurly burly of the elections, the wonders of queer history--but as my friends become my dreams, as I count my losses--Joyce Warshow, Sonny Wainwright, Max Feldman, Mabel, and always Carol--I think I must touch them into life again. And now Nancy, Nancy Johnson, a friend I met in Selma, Alabama on the civil rights march into Montgomery in 1965--and her partner then, Dinah--of whom I will not speak because she might not desire it.
I will write a longer piece about Nancy, the first Mormon lesbian I had ever met, a Mormon on the run from the homophobia of her Utah world but who maintained a connection to the world of her spirits her whole life. Nancy, the printer, the first woman I knew who worked the huge presses and had to fight for every job--Nancy who designed and printed LHA's first and only poster at her own small designing firm, EnJai Graphics. Nancy, the foster mother of two generations of lost children, Nancy, the healer who embraced her ill friends as she is doing here--who fought her own cancer by fighting for all of us. I remember one evening in the 70s it must have been--I am lying on the kitchen floor--ill with Chronic Fatigue--and Nancy is conducting a long distance healing session via the phone. She has gathered the white light of many friends and is sending it all to me, she says right into my ear. Now as some of you may know, I am no believer in such things, even scented candles drive me up a wall, but for Nancy I would lie on any floor and put my body in her hands.
The glorious years when we all lived in that wonderful tenement building on East 9th Street between 1st and Avenue A--the late 60s. Dinah and Nancy on the top floor and me on the first, our bathrooms in the hall. The Christmas mornings when these two Western women would invite me up to open the holiday gift box from Nancy's mother which always included sweets for me, their New York Jewish friend. Before 9th street Nancy and Dinah lived with me in my small apartment on 6th Street--where robberies were more frequent then pay checks. We were lesbian adventurers doing new things--opening bookstores on streets that had never seen one before, forming lesbian consciousness raising groups, launching new political and cultural groups. Over the years, our lives took different turns. The last time I remember seeing Nancy was when she visited with two small rambunctious children, the sons of Crystal, if I remember correctly, Lee and me at Black Slip Hollow in the western Catskills. Nancy loaded down with diapers and baby food, wearing the form hugging short shorts she fancied and her tank top--I must post this now before I loose it--to be continued