It is the 225th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights. One of the teachers at my school applied for and received one of 200 displays about the Bill of Rights for our school. It's pretty neat...there are replicas of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, a timeline of events and information about the rights we have as citizens of this great country.
As part of the celebration, we invited Reverend France Davis to our school to talk about the Civil Rights movement and his experience marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reverend Davis was born about 100 miles away from Dr. King. He explained that they were called colored back then...anyone who wasn't white. He went to a school where everyone was colored...all the teachers, bus drivers, students, everyone. He spoke about the "colored only" and "white only" signs that were all over his city and all over the South. "Coloreds" had to ride in the front of the train, the back of the bus, the bottom of a boat, and the top of a movie theatre...it was a big deal to know where you were supposed to sit and to follow those rules. About 2/3 of the children in his city were colored, and about 2 million dollars was spent on the colored schools each year. On the other hand, 10 million dollars was spent on the white schools.
He talked about Martin Luther King's intelligence. He was asked to leave school when he was 5 because he was the highest reader. He was very intelligent and had his PhD. by the time he was 25. Dr. King believed strongly in nonviolence. Reverend Davis met him in 1963 in DC at the march.
He shared four lessons we can all learn from Dr. King: 1. Prepare as if everything depends on you. 2. Imagine...have a vision for what you want to achieve. Dream. 3. Communicate that vision with others. Learn to communicate effectively with people. 4. Everyone has value.
We learned and sang "We Shall Overcome" with Reverend Davis. There were quite a few tears in adult's eyes as we sang. It really was a pretty special event. I'm so glad I live now and that we have made progress in how we treat those of different backgrounds...but there is still work to do. There still exists too much prejudice and too much bigotry.
This past week, we were able to have our principal, Dr. Kirby, speak to our students (two classes at a time) about her experiences growing up during this time period. She spoke about not being allowed to try clothes or shoes on at the store. So they would make tracings of their feet to measure their shoes. They would take their measurements and bring all that information with them to the store when they shopped for clothes. They also learned to sew so they could make their own clothes and so they could adjust their clothes if they bought something that didn't quite fit right. She talked about going to the grocery store and having to wait until all of the white customers had been waited on before they could check out. She allowed the students to ask questions. One of my students asked if children of color could go to the circus or amusement park. She said they had special days when they were allowed to go, but they had to go on those designated days. She also explained that people of many backgrounds were considered "colored"...hispanics, polynesians, asians...anyone whose skin was not white.
I think it has been really valuable for my students to learn about these events, to (hopefully) appreciate the rights they have and those who worked to ensure these rights for us all. I know that it has been a moving experience to listen to Dr. Kirby and Reverend Davis.