Eugene 'Gene' Uphoff
Eugene 'Gene' Uphoff is a physician who has been an advocate for justice and single pay health care. Growing up he was surrounded by a lot of progressive and active people. His parents were very influential, his mother always said, “leave the world a better place than when you found it.” In the 1960’s he was a part of the freedom rides and was a temporary political prisoner. A few years ago Uphoff was one of the founders of the Mad As Hell Doctors tour and since then has not stopped fighting for social justice.
(by Jocelyn Loyd, Roosevelt High School)
Memphis. A less than five-minute trial. Four months in jail with a two hundred dollar fine for misdemeanor breach of peace. They roll in by the busload. County jail leases part of state penitentiary. Maximum security. No need to sign a Last Will and Testament. Nothing material to leave behind. Pride. Faith. Cigarettes.
There was a hierarchy in the maximum security of the Parchment Farms State Penitentiary where Eugene Uphoff, who was one of the many Freedom Riders, was sent for protesting peacefully against social injustice. There was a trustee there who was puzzled by Gene and the Freedom Riders. Let’s dub him Jack. He always watched them during meals, and then hanged around to talk.
Jack was in prison for killing a family of four with his brother. They were of color. Jack was a reprehensible character; very interesting with his questions and hand full of stories. He didn’t share a cell with Gene, but that didn’t stop him.
Jack told Gene that once upon a time, he was a plumber. There were seven men who worked for him. Five were black and two were white. He said that the blacks weren’t afraid of arduous work, even if it was dirty like digging holes.
Gene voiced , “maybe they should have gone to college. They proved that they were willing to work hard. They could have even gone to medical school.”
A moment passed; perhaps Jack was visioning the life of those workers if they had gone to college. He gripped the bars and announced darkly with an edge of self-awareness, “Maybe I’m the one all fucked up.”
His words, nothing short of honesty, ate up the atmosphere. Gene realized that people can change if you say the right thing at the right time. Both men were consumed by thoughts known only to them. Eventually time unraveled, and Gene was released. In leaving behind captivity, and no longer being a political prisoner, Gene lost touch with Jack, whose actions after freedom remain a mystery.
A Life Unwhispered
(by Jocelyn Loyd)
Don’t stay on the path that others have set for you.
Take a walk; get a little lost to find your self.
If you have a talent unique to you, share it out of love.
There is a wind blowing to signal the next direction,
That’s the way it is, just following what happens naturally.
We do what we do so that we can connect with other people.
We break the hatch of the latch of our cages
And we explode from confinement to trail blaze remarkably.
Living like we’re dying tomorrow, but treating each day with care and guardianship-
To our selves and one another.
Take Away: "As cliché as it may sound, it was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. It was incredibly inspirational to hear the stories of people who are my age standing up for what they believe. …. The Freedom Riders showed us that all it takes is for a few people to stand up and inspire others to do the same. It’s a domino effect that results in greater social justice and a better world." -Alexa Zeazas