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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mentally ill civil rights advocate Juanita Goggins left to freeze to death – friends wonder if they could have done more – We wonder if they could have done something!

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Juanita Goggins

Freezes to Death

No one cared enough to save her, the

mentally ill are the last frontier in the

cause for civil rights

"I am going to Columbia to be a legislator, not just a black spot in the House chambers," Juanita said to the Associated Press in 1974 after she beat an incumbent white man who ran against her. 

Juanita suffered from a form of mental illness as yet diagnosed.  ItJuanita goggins manifested as dementia.  She refused to let anyone help her, a typical trait of the mentally ill.

Juanita graduated college with a four year degree in home economics.  In those days it was difficult to get into a white school, although she may have tried.  Her alma matter was South Carolina State College, which at the time, was all black.  Then she went for her masters.

Juanita was obviously a determined fighter for civil rights and a leader to all women, especially those of color, who seek to make a difference in a world that remains clueless to the evils of oppression. 

Although U.S. society pretends to be color blind, Juanita was well familiar with racial politics.  She taught in the state's segregated schools.  No doubt, some of her students have gone on and made a difference in the battle to be recognized as someone, a soul, more than a being, who has the right to share in life’s bounty, just as any other.

“She was the first black woman who won appointment to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission”

Those who understand the significance of a black woman winning office against a white incumbent must have been proud to see this icon go to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate.  She was the first black woman who won appointment to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. 

One must wonder why it took until 1972 for an appointment of a Black person to a commission devoted to fostering the rights of the oppressed. Col-SouthCarolinaState She broke ground!  She served on the South Carolina House budget-writing committee which had a great deal of power because it determined which projects got funded.

Many years after leaving government service, Juanita divorced the Dentist she married. 

South Carolina State College

She rented a ranch house off of North Main.  Who knows exactly when the dementia that would isolate her from friends and from help started.  She began to be reclusive, refusing to let anyone into her home.

Then she got mugged.

Something changes in you when the ugly part of society preys upon the oppressed.  She must have become distrustful of all people and afraid.  She refused help from everyone, including her son. 

Public Service, in their great wisdom and compassion, turned off her electricity for non-payment.  South Carolina does not have laws that protect the infirm against powerful utility companies.  Her son must have given up trying to help her as he had not seen her for the six months prior to her death.

When police found her she was wrapped in several layers of clothing.  She was cooking with sterno cups although her stove apparently worked.  The cause of death was hypothermia.

Dementia is an ugly illness that leaves one afraid of the rest of the world while falling into eternal isolation.  Once it is determined to have stricken 250px-SC_State_House_at_evening the solution is for a third party, the State of South Carolina if necessary, to manage things for the sick person.  No one made enough effort.  That is not to say no one tried.  One with dementia often fights off help.  It can take a determined effort to force the mentally ill into help.

South Carolina Legislator 

The Huffington Post, where a fair amount of information for this piece was gleamed, says friends and relatives ask themselves if they might have done more to save Juanita.  My answer, “You bet!”.  Those who knew her should have done more.  Those who are aware of oppression and injustice always have the obligation to do more.

According to the World Socialist Web Site, the manager of Juanita’s home knew she needed someone to assist her. 

According to the World Socialist Web Site, The property manager, Linda Marshall, said “[Goggins] needed someone to assist her, but anyone who tried to get close, she’d block them off. She was very fragile. This was something I always dreaded.”

“The mentally ill remain forgotten”

Yep.  There was a lot more that could have been done.  You just have to have the back bone to take on hard issues.

Juanita stands for the proposition that civil rights and freedom in the old days was a white/black problem.  Today it is mostly Latino.  Those who fight for the rights of all men to be free must appreciate and honor the roots of the civil rights movement.

Sadly, Juanita also serves as the proposition that the mentally ill remain forgotten.  They likely will be the last frontier in the march for civil rights.  They will not be able to March on Washington as my brothers and sisters did so few days ago.  They will depend upon others to do that for them. 

The solution to immigration reform must come with the efforts of people of all colors, religious beliefs, national origin and economic status.  Once we win the right for immigrants to be equal partners with U.S. citizens in society, perhaps we can ask their help in fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. 

For many years, the voiceless were undocumented workers afraid of making their cause known for fear of retribution.  These millions of people who suffered horrific oppression are now finding justice in speaking out through numbers like the RIFA march to Washington.  Those same numbers can be a big help when it comes time to demand equal rights and protection for the mentally ill like Guardian reports of Juanita Goggins.

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