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The F Stops Here

Bernice Belton
Bernice Belton was the Southern California director of the Committee to Abolish the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the early '60s. She is on the board of the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Community Action Board, has been a longtime member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and is now involved in the UFW struggle.

Bernice Belton

When asked to participate in this photo essay, which will run during the week of All Saints' Day, Bernice Belton lets out a guffaw. "Ya' hear that, honey?" she hollers to her husband, Bill, in the background. "I'm a saint!" Well, perhaps Belton has raised too much hell with all that organizing, agitating and rabble-rousing to fit the religious definition, but she is no doubt considered a savior by the poor, the marginalized and the embattled for whose rights she dedicated a lifetime to fighting.

Given how many times she has had to sit down and hash things out with friends and foes to accomplish her aims, it's not surprising what the political activist expects as a fitting tribute. "I want a moratorium declared on all political meetings for three days," Belton laughs. "I deserve three lousy days, don't you think?"

Along with that, she expects a youthful choir singing a song specially written for the occasion. The theme? "Don't Mourn--Organize and Dissent!" Of course, there'll be food: "I don't care what kind, as long as there's plenty--and music!"

Belton hopes the ceremony will give a nod to her "Jewish consciousness and identification" but still manage to be a nonsectarian send-off. Also an atheist, Belton figures that when death comes, it's all over.

However, life and death are put in perspective by Belton's beloved semper virens that tower over her property. "There's something about having a view of the redwoods that gives me a sense of the continuity of life," the activist says. "They've been here a long time, and they'll go on long after many of us are gone."


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From the Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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