Donna Henes is an urban shaman, ritual expert, author and public speaker. During the summer of 1964, she was a college student and registered voters as a Freedom Summer volunteer.
That summer, I’d just finished my freshman year at Ohio State University. Being something of a free thinker and a progressive, I was very isolated there but it was the only place I afford to go and I had a scholarship. I was on the student senate, which was a very big deal at the time and I was appointed human rights commissioner of the campus. Early on, I would stage set ups where I’d send students, Black and white, to rooming houses to prove cases of discrimination. If they’d deny housing to Black students, we’d have them taken off the college list of approved housing.
Eventually I heard about the Freedom Summer and voter registration efforts. I lived in a rooming house at that time and one of the other girls there was African American. We were good friends and decided to sign up together.
“After that summer, I brought my fellow volunteer home to Cleveland and you know, even after all of that, it was very uncomfortable to have her in my mother’s apartment.”
I remember we’d just go door to door trying to convince people to register to vote. There was one that really sticks out. I was knocking on a door and this girl answered. She was just covered in children. There had to be about five or six on and around her. I went through my whole spiel and she looked at me and said, “I can’t vote. I’m not old enough.” We had to be about the same age. 18 or 19. She didn’t know she could vote.
After that summer, I brought my fellow volunteer home to Cleveland and you know, even after all of that, it was very uncomfortable to have her in my mother’s apartment. It was really intense. We lost touch soon after but she did give me a spaghetti recipe that I haven’t forgotten. She put sugar in her tomato sauce to cut the acid. I don’t actually do it but I always think of her whenever I make spaghetti.