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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column every other Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Remembering a life of activism

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................Oct 8 2013

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “DeKalb County Life” column will appear every other Tuesday.

Sitting in the audience at the Tribute to Heroes Award Night last week I wondered how many of the honorees had begun their lifelong passion for community service and support for good causes during their college days.

Just the night before that I had attended a campus rally against domestic violence and sexual assault called “Take Back the Night.” I was at least four decades older than most of the 200 participants. I only knew two people in the crowd, DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack, and retired NIU Communications Department chair Lois Self. Being there brought back a lot of memories, all the way back to 1962 on that same campus, only about 200 yards from where I stood 51 years ago to demonstrate for another cause.

I noted that two other people at the Tribute event had been at that same NIU protest a half century ago and they are Marilyn (Frank) Stromborg and Jerry Smith. They seem to have matured and mellowed over time as activists, while I probably haven’t.

My last protest of any note was in 2004 when I organized a small but notable group to protest outside a major employer in Livermore, California from where I had just retired three years earlier. The corporate powers-that-be had decided not to observe the holiday commemorating Martin Luther King’s birthday and I felt that was wrong. While I worked there I had protested their policy to no avail, so I figured at least the negative publicity from us standing on the sidewalk waving a sign encouraging employees on their way to work to remember Dr. King was one way of getting our point across.

Shown among those protesting an employer that declined to take part in the national holiday for Martin Luther King’s birthday back in 2004 were two Methodist ministers, the leader of Tri-Valley CARES (a peace group), a nuclear scientist who had been part of the UN inspection team in Iraq, and (columnist) Barry Schrader, on the right.

Iffat Fathima
(photo by Barry Schrader)

That has been the story of my life, taking a strong stand on various issues, not always successfully, but at least I felt better for having made the effort. I even have a humorous pin with the slogan “I Chase Windmills” which refers to the Don Quixote novel in which the character chased imaginary enemies that turned out to be giant windmills across the landscape.

So this takes me back to 1962 again. It was in the Spring of that year we organized a Committee for Student Rights to protest a (perceived) oppressive NIU administration that we thought still treated us like children instead of young adults. We drew up a list of 13 demands and rallied 1,200 students on the lawn area in front of Swen Parson Library and the Biology building, now occupied by Lowden Hall. Thankfully, it was peaceful, so I didn’t get kicked out of school, which one dean suggested could happen to me.

Now I implore young activists like Iffat Fathima, a leader of the “Take Back the Night” rally and march last week, to keep their passion for righting wrongs all through life, pursuing worthwhile causes, whether they be in the workplace, in the streets, or in government.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115