This is from my newsletter written in August 2008.
Judy Dixon was a long-time close friend of mine and Nora’s best friend. When I first came to Panama she helped me enormously with getting my papers in order. Judy passed away 4 months ago.
Judy had been personal secretary to several powerful Panama government ministers, and finished her career in President Perez-Balladares office, as a trusted assistant. She was one of the movers and shakers in CONEN (Consejo Nacional de la Etnia Negra, Panama’s equivilant of the NAACP). Her funeral services were held in a school gymnasium, because no church which could accomodate the expected crowd was available.
May 30 was her birthday and CONEN held a celebration in her honor in a large hall of the ATLAPA Convention Center in Panama City. Hundreds of people, including the Mayor of Panama City, several cabinet members, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court were there, and of course, Nora and I, who were homored with reserved seats on the second row. The President of the Republic was scheduled to attend, but the crash of the 35 year old helicopter, which had been used by the late General Omar Torrijos, into a crowded store on Central Avenue had occupied all his attention.
I was scheduled to give a talk at another, unrelated function at 7:30 and told my friend Charley, (Judy’s husband) that I would have to leave at 7:00. At 6:45, the first speaker was introduced, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In a triumph of hope over experience, I naiively thought he would speak for no more than 15~20 minutes, so I could stay for his speech and still get to the next function on time, and even if he spoke longer, I could “answer” my cell phone and pretend to have an emergency, and everyone would understand my walking out on the Chief Justice’s talk. As he began to speak about the African Slave Trade and how Europe profited by it, I looked around at the sea of brown and black faces, and realized that there was no way on Earth that this blue-eyed white boy was going to walk out until he was finished.
By the way, he is an excellent speaker and held my interest for the full 45 minutes. At no point did he say anything that could be taken as an attack on white people; instead he focused on how people of color around the world, including Panama, had lifted themselves up by hard work and faith in God. I left feeling uplifted, myself.