August 5, 2007

Missing a Limb

Other than my compulsive daily trolling of the Internets for signs of peace and justice, I have a few real world things to sort out.
Like death.

Ron "Doc" Rosen was buried on July 23 at Crow Dog's Paradise on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. I know the overwhelming grief I feel is shared by many others.

Ron was so much to so many people. It's astonishing to think how much we packed into the 3+ years of nearly constant togetherness. In the decades after that, it was a rare two days when I didn't get a message about some action, some outrage, and finally but most fortunately, of finding love in Carol and his desire to devote himself to her.

We were true comrades who bonded over kung fu movies in the old Chinatown theaters, sneaking sushi in. My little slice of life with him was like an “everything” pizza. We met near the end of 1969. Bored and lonely, I spent much of that year going to The Alternate U on 14th Street, corner of 6th Ave. (Anyone with more info on it? I can’t find much on the web.) I floated through Astrology for Socialists, Consciousness Raising classes (FOR WOMEN ONLY), and a terrific class run by Murray Bookchin on Anarcho-Communism.

A very motley group usually assembled just as I was leaving, wearing weird uniforms with tight belts, shouting at each other as they practiced punches and kicks. The leader of the pack had flashing black eyes and long black, curly hair. He walked like a cowboy but often wore black slacks with a black business shirt. (I later learned there was a white collar inside so he could effectively transform into The Reverend Ron Rosen.) I decided to practice whatever it was to have my consciousness raised by other liberated women, and finally introduced myself.

My life was never the same.

I joined the Self-Defense for Activists class and became a dedicated member. As the class grew and The Alternate U imploded from infighting and provocateurs, it seemed clear our class would have to find another place to continue working out. A carpenter friend of Ron's named Stephen Barnett knew of a loft on Broome Street for a whopping $300 a month, 1,200 sq. ft. Yup!

We had a home and took on a Chinese name to distance ourselves from the more macho karate and judo practitioners. Ron came up with Wo Ping Kuen Kwoon, or Peaceful Harmonious Fist School. Those were the days before SoHo, and I really needed to use self-defense on several occasions coming or going from the place late at night.

In addition to the Kwoon, Ron & I spent the bulk of our free time (rent was only $47 a month!) either in Village hangouts or doing political work at the Washington Square Methodist Church on W. 4th St. The guy who usually held court at the Kettle of Fish or Feenjon's, Walter Teague, had an office in the back of the church which was called the submarine. Although it covered the entire width of the church, it was only about 10 feet wide, however the clearance was wayyyy up there, so submarine it was for the Asian American Information Committee (also known as the US Committee to Aid the NLF, or USCANLF, to us & the FBI).

Walter's mission was to educate the American people to the Vietnamese. He wanted to put a face on the "gooks" and press more people to resist fighting. To advance this mission, on Saturday nights we'd have film showings in the church. These were often a mix of a radical Hollywood movie, like Marlon Brando's "Burn," with films from Vietnam, showing what every day life was like for these incredibly vulnerable people. Their beauty inspired the desire to live, no matter how horrible the conditions, and after shows we'd ramble into the neighborhood bars to eat, drink and live like the revolution was coming tomorrow.

Ron was a great mentor, in fact became better over time. He was ever patient and never rude. He never criticized directly but instead would smile and ask if the person had read a particular book or heard a song, then he'd smile again and eventually, the argument would dissipate. Of course, Ron had zero tolerance if someone was out looking for a rumble.

As the police were directed to use more force and violence toward all protesters, Ron took the lead as an organizer of "cadres" of street medics. Those of us in the Kwoon were his first class but I now understand he was looking forward to what he ultimately became, the people's healer.

Thanks to Ron I got to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! The Young Lords had been getting a lot of press coverage and decided they would participate. Ron “volunteered” us and we wore armband crosses with red berets, as was the Young Lord’s fashion.

Ron was brilliantly self-taught, even if you don’t count all the amazing people in his family. His Grandfather, Joseph Greenstein was well known in the carnival circuit as “The Mighty Atom.” See for more info.

Here’s an excerpt:

Greenstein continued performing his strongman feats well into his eighties, giving his last performance at his great-grandchilds first birthday on May 11th, 1977. (Was that you, Ari?)

Zeidy taught Ron basic martial arts skills which he acquired while escaping Russia through Asia. Sifu Greenstein also practiced Judaism with the same dedication it took to survive the immigration.

Ron’s entire family lived with the openness I characterized as one of Ron’s best qualities. There was always time to talk. Aunts and Uncles came and went or stayed, as Desde did. What some might have seen as an unorthodox household seems to have been a perfectly tended garden.

Ron absorbed highly technical information with barely a high school education. He learned about the barefoot doctors in China and how acupuncture affected health. During the battle of Wounded Knee in 1973, the Native American Tribal Leaders fully accepted him because he brought medicine and stood with them during the siege. I don't know if Wounded Knee was the first time Ron almost died from being in the wrong place at the right time, but it certainly changed his life. He packed up NYC and made Denver his home. He stopped teaching people how to fight and instead taught them how to heal. He became so good at it that his name is known all over the world by indigenous people, people who fight oppression and humanitarian aid workers. Whether it was Guatemala, Ache, New Orleans or New York City, if people were needy, Doc was tireless.


Ron was one of the first to learn of my impending marriage to our mutual cohort, Bert Lee, and if things had been different, he'd have been the one to marry us. I will always regret that we were not able to attend Ron and Carol's wedding this past June. It would have been one last beautiful time to share together.

Of course, Ron was going to live forever and didn't have insurance or savings. If you have the ability to contribute to Ron's family for the hospital and burial, plus help keep the clinic going, here are contact addresses:

The StreetMedics
1529 York Street
Denver, CO 80206

The address I have for Carol is:

1590 S. Dahlia Street
Denver, CO 80222

If this information is incorrect, please let me know. Carol and their extended family need our help getting through this awful time, so please do what you can.

If there's interest, I'll post other items regarding Ron, Doc, Sifu, …

Here is a quote from Doc's Own site:

"Traditionally in every tribal society, medicine sprang from and was the property of the tribe and the people as a whole. In the middle ages, the church based medical establishment deliberately and methodically substituted a patriarchal, hierarchical medical paradigm. It is my goal with the projects I've been helping to set up around the world to return medicine to the hands of the people from which it sprang." - Doc Rosen


Crystal said...

Thanks for writing about my dad, and no my little brother was not born in 1977. He loved NYC and brought me there as a child (to the democratic convetion protests). I am pleased to hear that affected so many people, but then again, i knew this. Let his memory continue and pave the way for future leader. Crystal

Reb Barry said...

Thanks for that post. Ron was also a friend of mine, I met him in Denver in 1976. See for some of my recollections...

Walter Teague said...

Just came across this account of Ron Rosen. Sadly, as I continue to live, many good people drop away. Remember Ron when he taught some of us in our anti-war loft shared with the Yippies, think it was in late 60's. I am now a semi-retired social worker in Maryland.
Walter Teague

Walter Teague said...

Sorry, its late, but I wanted to mention a bit more. I appreciate the comments on my anti US war on Vietnam work.
Many years and continuing battles and struggles since then.
Recently lost my partner of 30 years. She was a lovely survivor of the Pol Pot horrors and knew that the problems traced back to colonialism. I am currently working on the issue early child traumas that if not treated with lots of healthy love, become hidden burdens of undeserved shame. I believe that there are millions of adults who carry those scars and sadly pass them on all too often in their damaged lives. A draft web site where I will be putting my ideas as they develop is at I welcome comments.