Nine year olds may be easily excited. Our Pee Wee baseball team won quite a few games. I played nearly every position on the field at that age. I even pitched a game or two. But, I am not sure any excitement I felt that year compared to that of Ms. Criag. I did not understand why.
Some think 9 year olds in 1972 did not think much about girls. Not true. I liked Allison. So did Vince. The problem was Vince was like a giant when standing next to me. We often walked home together from school. We talked about Allison.
1972. While the rest of the world braced to understand the terrorist event at the Munich Olympic Games and reckon with Watergate,Vince taught me a new vocabulary, curse words. A couple of things to note. My parents did not use what we called foul language. I did not know those words were cuss words in the same way I did not know Mrs. Booker was Black. I did not know the words Vince asked me to use to describe his anger at Allison were considered taboo. I only knew they were new to me.
Like a good best friend I called Allison to relay the message that Vince was upset with her. After my first few words I heard my Mom on the extension say, “Todd get off the phone.” Gulp. Quickly and in no uncertain terms, Mother Mary informed me we do not use those words. She explained curse words evidenced a weak mind. That may be the beginning of my learning to express myself in ways that my wife now tells me, “I don’t know they understood how you just spoke to them.” There are actually more creative ways to question someone’s intelligence than with curse words. I am not sure I should be proud of either method.
Another event in 1972 impacted me. Judge Luther Bohannon gave the ruling that struck down segregation in Oklahoma City Public Schools. The desegregation ruling meant the start of forced bussing.
Near the end of my third grade year, 1972, the Oklahoma Public School district had a trial run for students who would be bussed out of their local communities to other parts of the City. Ms. Craig prepared us for our guests. Ms. Craig was Black. I liked Ms. Craig. The truth is I liked school. As far as I remember I liked all of my teachers. Of course there are some that stood out more than others. I liked Ms. Craig.
Even though that has been some 45 years ago, I still recall a bounce in her step and excitement in her voice. The occasion that Ms. Craig would have Black students in her class the next year did not register with me then. It does today. know why this excited Ms. Craig.
I was recently reminded of this excitement.
Sunday, February 5, I invited my friend George E. Young Sr to preach at Snow Hill. We have a few young people in our church who, I believed, would appreciate their mostly white church opening up space for a Black preacher, especially being that February is Black History Month.
Dr. Young reminded us of the Exodus story. One may imagine how impossible the situation seemed. Would they ever escape slavery? Once they did, would they ever escape the threat of Pharaoh’s army. He shared that this story, even when used as a metaphor, held such promise to those whose situations seem impossible; like Blacks in America. To make his point more contemporary, George invited us to think about the Presidency of Barak Obama in a different way than whether or not we liked it, whether he successful or not or whether we liked his policies or not. He asked us to think deeper about the significance that a Black man could be elected President in the same Country that once thought Blacks were less than human, served as slaves and should be separate.
No longer impossible!
Hearing Dr. Young, born in Memphis, where Black men once carried signs that read, “I Am A Man,” where the implied was “I am not garbage,” raised the level of excitement that all things are possible. It is important to recognize that Black History is our history. We may wish to relegate it to a sub set within History. But, it is our history. And as such, even still, it holds promise and possibility.
Yes, we should all be excited, not just Ms. Craig or Dr. Young, but all of us.