“If you’ve ever been in the middle of a riot or the eye of a hurricane, you know it’s very calm. It is. That is exactly how I felt the night of the riot. . . .

White students had been out there the night before yelling, and it was part of the resistance ritual, ‘Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate.’ It sounded almost playful and then it got louder and louder and louder. And that’s when the brick came through the window. I realized what had happened and it was like, ‘Wow! There is a riot in my room.’

I probably didn’t get frightened about it until ten or fifteen years later.

I think maybe that is part of what helps me in my journalism. I have a tremendous capacity to be detached but at the same time to be engaged.”

 


“Even in the best high school in Atlanta, we had hand-me-down textbooks and our labs were certainly not as well equipped. So the fact that we were prepared to compete in the way that we did was a minor miracle that the black schools accomplished.

That was the critical difference. We didn’t want to go to school with white people- that wasn’t it. It was those facilities they had.

There were real conflicts between Hamilton [Holmes, the other ‘first’ black student] and me over our approach to the whole situation. I was really much more interested in integrating the place and Hamp was much more interested in desegregation.

It got to be bigger than I ever thought it would be. I didn’t expect that. People wanted us to be perfect, I guess. And I wanted to be me, which was an imperfect person.

There was conflict and there was pain. There was crisis and there was ignorance and all of that. But I emerged as a whole person and the university came out the better for it.

The university itself has a lot of unfinished business. The young people have a lot of complaints and knowing how far they’ve come should not mitigate their demands for a more equitable piece of the state pie. . . .

. . . You have to access every situation that you’re in and you have to decide, is this happening because I’m black? Is this happening because I’m a woman? Or is this happening because this is how it happens?

Whatever I have faced as a woman is probably a lot more subtle than what I have faced as a black person. We did find out, for example, at The New York Times, that women across the board were making less money that most men.  And there was a successful lawsuit. But the same thing happened with blacks. And there was also a successful lawsuit.

I have never looked on being black or being a woman as a handicap and, honestly, I have used those things to my advantage, in the workplace particularly.”

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America

Truth be told, I have written three different reflections on Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s life, words and how it resonates with my heart, life experiences and questions at the forefront of my heart these days.  Came close to hitting publish and then deleted them, all three.

There are many reasons for this, probably the most being the rawness of the emotion and thoughts regarding my connection to her story at this particular moment in time.

As tears drip from my chin onto my scarf, know that her story is one of the most powerful and inspiring for me yet. There is something about the realities she names and my story as a follower of Jesus who is a black woman who has chosen to share life, work and live out her faith within one of the largest segregated institutions, the Church, in our country that stirs up an array of questions, emotions, thoughts and memories that have broken open my heart and awaken a voice within that has no desire to sleep. After the sighs, that right now are too deep, find release, hopefully she will find the words of truth, love and grace to speak.

“Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion. Well, there’s half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government.”

Taken from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s address at Western Michigan University, December 18, 1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements