Last night I had the opportunity to have a (partially) private interview with Ruby Bridges. I cannot put into words how incredible this was. Here is a link to the story I wrote for The Village Green.
This is a woman I have admired for years and wrote about her in 2013, long before I ever thought I’d have the chance to meet her in person!
She is an incredible role model and I am thrilled to have been in her presence.
As I sit and listen to all this nonsense, (in my opinion) about “allowing” homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. I mentioned to my sons today that I feel like we are witnessing history as it is happening. We are living in a time that years from now, people will be writing about and saying, “I can’t believe that ever happened.” When I teach my students about segregation and about amazing people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruby Bridges they look at me with amazement because they can’t imagine not being in a school with children of all races and ethnicities.
Maybe in a few years down the road, it will be the same regarding same sex couples . How wonderful would it be if children can grow up in a world where they can think, “I can’t believe that every happened…”
I have written several times about the amazing town that I live in. Maplewood, NJ is a special place. Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality, once called Maplewood, “the ‘peak’ of the state’s most gay-friendly residential ‘corridor,’ stretching through a swath of western Essex County.” Here in Maplewood, we are already on the right path. With such diversity in our town, our students don’t even realize there is anything unusual about each another. It is just the norm – and that is the way it should be.
Born in 1954 in Mississippi, Ruby Bridges moved with her family to New Orleans when she was four. She was ordered by a judge to attend Frantz Elementary School for Whites. She was the first black child to ever walk into that school. Parents protested and chanted as she bravely walked through the front door surrounded by federal officers. After that, white parents threatened to pull their own children from the school and all but one teacher refused to teach her. This woman, Barbara Henry became her teacher and for over a year, she taught Ruby alone with no other child in the classroom.
Although the Brown v. Board of Education decision had been passed the year Ruby was born, many southern schools still had not become integrated. Many of them chose to shut down rather than integrate. Everyday as Ruby entered that building, men and women would stand outside the doors yelling out racial slurs to this little girl. Her father lost his job and her family was regularly threatened.
There was so much national news coverage about it, that over time, business leaders worried about the economic impact on the city. Although it took nearly two years, by the time Ruby was in second grade, there were other black children enrolled in her school and the classes had become integrated.
The date she first entered those doors, bravely walking with her head held high, was November 14, 1960. Fifty-three years ago today. I am grateful to her and to her teacher for standing tall and facing such adversity. I read her story to my class every year during Black History Month. I am always amazed and moved when I see the look of disbelief on the faces of my students when they hear her story. They cannot even fathom the idea that they would not be able to be in a school with some of their classmates if it weren’t for so many brave people like Ruby Bridges. I have written about it more than once. Our students are colorblind and the fact that they are oblivious to their differences is a blessing and one that they will be able to perpetuate as they grow up.
Thank you Ruby Bridges. I am grateful for you and all that you have done to make a difference in our world.