By Miriam Raftery
|Carrol W. Waymon, PhD|
January 20, 2009 (San Diego) — Watching the presidential inauguration of Barack
Obama holds special meaning for Carrol W. Waymon, PhD, San Diego’s most prominent
living civil rights leader.
”It’s incredible to me,” said Waymon, who led efforts to desegregate schools
and housing in San Diego as head of San Diego’s Human Relations Commmittee.
He also served as San Diego’s official delegate to the funeral of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. “I couldn’t imagine at that time in 1968 that we’d have a
black president 40 years later.”
The Obama victory symbolizes an era of new opportunites for African-Americans,
who as recently as a few decades ago faced legal segregation laws barring equality
in everything from hotels and restaurants to buying a home or sending their
children to school.
When Waymon first came to San Diego, he recalled, “Police beat up black kids
and brown kids. There were restrictive housing covenants.” He championed efforts
that succeeded in eliminating those official restrictions, not only helping
to integrate housing communities for African-Americans, but also others. “When
Jews couldn’t buy land in La Jolla, we helped remove restrictive convenants,”
he recalled, adding that Dr. Jonas Salk helped in that effort.
Waymon, a teacher, led a series of historic City Hall meetings and grass-roots
forums around San Diego four decades ago, following race riots around the nation,
forever changing race relations in our community, the San Diego Union-Tribune
reported in a May 10, 2008 article titled “Remembering a Pivotal Time.”
He also played a key role in a lawsuit which ultimately forced desegration
of San Diego City Schools. “That began in my office,” he said with pride. “We
opened up the schools.”
More subtle forms of discrimination remained, as Waymon, author of 15 books,
chronicled in On Being Black in San Diego - Anytown USA, published in 1994. Back
then, he wrote, “To be Black in San Diego is to forever wonder why, on the
one hand, this is such a great place to live, and on the other hand feel so
isolated and oppressed at the same time. Why is it that so many Blacks in all
walks and successful levels in this town feel that so few things have brought
so little positive change?”
Waymon has seen progressive since then, though he believes America - and San
Diego - still have a ways to go. But he reflects on the progress we have made.
“My Daddy was the son of a slave,” he told East County Magazine . “My mother
was born 35 years after slavery.”
His library chronicling San Diego’s turbulent civil rights history has recently
been acquired by San Diego State University to preserve it for future scholars
“Many young people have no appreciation of the struggle that Carrol Waymon
went through,” Clara Harris, a Lemon Grove resident who served as director
of the Heartland Human Relations Agency in East County, a group that Waymon
helped to establish, according to the Union-Tribune report.
Now in his 70s, Waymon continues his efforts to achieve equal opportunities
and respect for all people.
“We have an immigration committee,” said Carrol, a leading participant in
the immigrant rights movement. “We marched all over the place.”
He continues to write every day, compelled as one of the last living San Diego
civil rights leaders to chronicle history - and call for change for the future.
Change he believes will be swifter in coming now that America has shattered
the highest racial barrier in the land by elected an African-American as President
of the United States.
Editor’s Note: Carrol Waymon has agreed to be the featured speaker at a Black
History Month presentation in East County to be sponsored by East County
Magazine in February. If you would like information on attending this event (time and
place to be announced), please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
View our full library of photos from local presidential inauguration events
in East County and East San Diego at eastcountymagazine.org/?q=414_inauguration_photo_library.
Watch our video of the inaugural community ball in City Heights at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U9e-XN7bXs.
Read our inauguration stories at eastcountymagazine.org/?q=403_inauguration,