Heroes - Crystal Lee Sutton | Street Jazz

Heroes - Crystal Lee Sutton



Crystal Lee Sutton, the woman who was the inspiration for the film Norma Rae, died on September 11. She died after a long fight with brain cancer, a cruel death which also claimed my father in 1994.

It has always been people like Crystal Sutton who have been my heroes. Her quote, “Management and others treated me as if I had leprosy,” is a familiar feeling to those who have had the courage to stand up for what they believe in. I have been fortunate to know a number of folk who fit the Crystal Lee Sutton mold right here in Northwest Arkansas.


Our history is full of people like Sutton, ordinary men and women who see what needs to be done and get to work, though they face unrelenting odds, and criticism from all about them. I say that history is full of such people, but their work is hardly ever recorded, unless they happen to be elected to office.

For the most part, the names of activists will never be known and honored, even in their own communities. Have you ever seen a plaque honoring a citizen activist?

Some people will hold back from taking part in public life, claiming that “Some of us have jobs and families!” as if that gave them an valid excuse not to try to make the world a better place. But activism doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Standing up for what you believe in takes many forms. You can take part in a demonstration, you can speak out publicly, or do something as simple as write a letter to a newspaper or to a member of congress.

We live in a world of complacent people, many of whom will literally cower when you suggest that they write a letter their congressman - or give the infamous dead-eyed stare, hoping that you will think they have gone temporarily deaf, and haven’t heard the suggestion.

Those who hold the “Some of have responsibilities! placard on high never seem to realize that everybody has responsibilities, and almost everyone I ever knew who was involved in any level of activism also had jobs and families.

It’s time for people to think up new excuses for not even making the minimal effort.


Crystal Lee Sutton and the real life Death Panel

Sutton had been struggling with her insurance company, which had been delaying her treatment for the form of brain cancer she had. She was only 68 when she died last week.


Try saying this with a sneer - “Some of us have jobs.”

I have heard this particular whine many times over the years, especially, it seems, from conservatives when it comes to public access television. The implication they try to give is that most producers are social parasites with no jobs or responsibilities, and that’s why they can produce programming.

Decent folk (conservatives) have jobs and families to feed!

It seems almost cruel to point out to these folk that most producers also have jobs and families, and that you don’t have to live at the station to be involved - just take some classes and work on whatever project you want, at your own pace.

No, it’s more fun to sneer at other people.


Quote of the Day

Sometimes I would almost rather have people take away years of my life than take away a moment. - Pearl Bailey, Talking to Myself


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