Journalist and civil rights activist Carl Bloice died from cancer April 12 in San Francisco. He was 75. Raised in South Central Los Angeles, he spent most of his adult life in “The City by the Bay” that he loved best.
As a teenager, Bloice participated in civil rights activities as a member of the Liberal Religious Youth, the Unitarian Universalists youth organization in Los Angeles. For a time, Bloice planned on entering the ministry of the Unitarian Church. His involvement in the early civil rights movement brought him into contact with many others, including members of the Communist Party, which he joined in 1959 when he was 20.
Soon after he moved to San Francisco to participate in the civil rights movement in northern California. He then joined the staff of the People’s World, the west coast progressive newspaper, which included on its staff both Communists and non-Communists.
In 1962, Bloice along with others, founded the first chapter of the W.E.B. DuBois Clubs, an multi-racial youth organization, composed of both students, working and unemployed youth, that shared the socialist vision of the great civil rights leader for which it was named.
Later in 1962, Bloice went south to cover the civil rights movement for People’s World, becoming the first northern journalist to report from the south on a full-time basis for this epic movement in our country’s history. On the night of May 11, 1963, Carl was in the room in the A. G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Ala., when the Ku Klux Klan bombed it in an attempt to murder the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the “Birmingham campaign.”
Bloice was founder and co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, founding moderator of Portside, editorial board member and frequent contributor to Black Commentator, Bloice’s prolific, professional, insightful, Marxist style of political journalism – understated but devastating – soared above all rivals. He was widely published throughout the political left and mainstream liberal opinion outlets.
He worked for 10 years for National Nurses United Union in communications. NNU Director Rose Ann DeMoro writes:
“I am horribly sad and shaken that Carl Bloice passed away today. For those of you who know Carl, you know how profound and wonderful this man has been throughout his life.
Carl worked with us for many years in communications and was an incredible resource for our organization. More importantly, he was a beautiful human being whom everyone loved.”
He focused his daily and weekly and monthly journalistic production on economics, on the struggle for equality, on youth, especially African American, Latino and Asian youth in his hometown, on internationalism. He loved jazz, good wine, and food-he could whip up a mini-gourmet, Mediterranean meal in 20 minutes. He mastered the art of speaking and plumbing the truth through diverse sources and voices, adding powerful resonance to the key messages. He liked vacationing in Mexico. He read voraciously.
Pat Fry, co-chair of CCDS with Bloice, writes:
“To his last days, Carl kept up his enormous capacity and energy for reading and writing. His columns for the Black Commentator were circulated in Portside and CCDS Links. His daily selection of the Quote of the Day and the Toon of the Day poignantly captured the political moment.”
On a personal note, during the 43 years of our friendship, every conversation I had with Carl included a dispute. But, we agreed on everything.
Carl’s idea of good conversation was almost Zen-like, wanting to challenge, tease, object and question until, with enthusiastic friends help, everyone would learn something new, acquire a deeper understanding, and have a clearer purpose. He had a curious, acerbic and disinterested way of disputation that never became mean spirited. It provided him, and we who loved him, considerable amusement along with the potential “improvement of impaired faculties.” I once sent him an email with a masked quote of a previous email of his own. As usual, he took issue with it just to keep the thread interesting!
I can’t list all that needs to be said about Carl Bloice here. I offer instead a verse by Naomi Shihab Nye, which captures my thanks to Carl for the hand he reached out to me many years ago.
He was not a parent. But he was a teacher.
There were only a few hours, at the end, when he could no longer “make a fist”. Carl is gone but we are still here. I promise to keep “making a fist,” as long as I can, Carl, until the questions of the dead, can be answered.
BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE
We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
Jorge Luis Borges
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.
Thank you to Pat Fry and Jay Schaffner for their contributions to this article.