Utah Freedom Writers

Utah Freedom Writers

Utah Freedom Writers is a publication of the SLCC Community Writing Center (CWC) that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in the US. This publication is the fruit of a five-month campaign with local community partners to start an open dialogue about civil and human rights. In this publication, our Freedom Writers have explored a wide spectrum of topics encompassed within civil rights discourse. Some have paid their respects to those who fought for the rights they enjoy daily, some have written about their experiences stepping outside of their comfort zones to connect with different communities and cultures, while others have chosen to address injustices that still exist today. All of our Freedom Writers were prompted by the question: “While we’ve come a long way, are we there yet?” Included are a few excerpts from the anthology.

Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?

Sitting in the back of the car, we know that we are not there yet.  We ask the question anyway, hoping that the answer will signal a change from the previous miles of long travel.

If we are asking the Freedom Riders, “are we there yet?”  We are asking the wrong question from the wrong place in history.  The history of the Riders is in the past.  Their time is waning; our time is waxing.

We are in the driver’s seat.  As the miles drone on and we become mesmerized by the white line, it is time for us to get out of our car and take a break. It is time for us to get out of our cars and back onto the bus.  It is time for us to leave the safety of our homes and get back into our communities.  

It is time for us to stop being entertained and to start entertaining.   It is time for us to stop being alone and start being with each other.

We need to build on the history of the Freedom Riders, and we need to know, why, after more than 50 years of fighting for equal rights, do we have to continue to fight?  How do we win?

The answer is simple.  We need to know more about each other.  Knowing someone on a personal level reminds us of their humanity.  It reminds us that we are like them.  It reminds us that we could be them.

It was the dehumanization of the Jews and the apathy of good people that allowed Hitler to carry out his Holocaust.  It was the dehumanization of black people that allowed the U.S. to segregate and treat them poorly.  It continues to be the dehumanization of groups of people and the apathy of good people that allows our government and institutions, at the least, to ignore the plight of those in need, and at worst, to contribute to that plight.

Are we there yet?

As long as we have a dream and that dream includes equality, we are not there yet.

As long as we are discriminated against for any reason, the answer is “no.”    Freedom Writers Community Project: Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights 2

As long as we have to ask, we are not there yet.

On a brisk foggy evening I trudge onto that rickety old bus

Blank stares made their way back to me, no one did discuss

Was it my dark skin color, or the tired look on my face

Unsettle was I, surrounded by a Caucasian race

I sat down without a word, and took a look at the viewing

Until a loud voice came in “What are you doing?”

“You’re in the wrong seat, you’ll have to move

This here’s for white people, and we disapprove.”

What I heard I couldn’t bear, I looked up to him confused

I will not move from this seat, I absolutely refused.

Alone and helpless, I had lost my fight

I knew deep down inside that this wasn’t right

That day I knew it the moment it untwirled

My self‐expression was about to change the world

I was tired of being pushed, and wrongly accused

There was a fire within me ready to diffuse

I didn’t know my punishment or where it would lead me

The stand on the bus was bigger than I thought it would be

Self‐expression is the key to acceptance, everybody shouldn’t fuss

I am Rosa Parks and this is the story behind the bus.

In 1961, four‐hundred courageous men and women boarded the buses at their own expense of their lives to uphold a protest on the inhumane treatment and the opportunities that were stripped from their very being. This all occurred in the south of the United States. All of these people were known as the prestigious "Freedom riders." Life was not pleasant for many of the mistreated African Americans. Here are some of the atrocious acts that were performed against them.                 

The Freedom Ride departed from Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1961. It was intended to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.On Mother's Day, May 14, the Freedom Riders split up into two groups to travel through Alabama. The first group was met by a mob of about 200 angry people in Anniston. The mob threw stones and slashed the tires of the bus. The brave men and women escaped out of town. They stopped about six miles away from where they had been attacked to change their damaged tires. That was a mistake because the group of bigoted people met up with them, only to fire bomb the group.         

The other group did not fare any better. It was greeted by a mob in Birmingham, and the Riders were severely beaten. The public safety commissioner claimed to not have sent out response units to the crime because it was a holiday. The facts were later found by the FBI after a thorough investigation. They discovered that he had known about the attack and purposefully did not send out the police, because he believed that they were just rebels looking for problems. The bus drivers no longer wanted to drive for the freedom riders because they feared for their own well‐being and the owners feared that their buses would be demolished. So Freedom Rider Jim Peck stated that it would be even more beneficial if they pressed onward to prove that non‐violence could prevail over violent acts. The group instantaneously went on to New Orleans.

Shortly after, Martin Luther King Jr. went on to Montgomery and held an assembly to support the Freedom Riders. This assembly only kindled the ardor in the southern people’s hearts. They surrounded the church with insidious intentions.  So MLK called Robert Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy called Governor Patterson. He then sent out an order for "martial law".  He sent out the police and National Guard.  The mob dispersed and the streets were placid.  Robert Kennedy asked for a cooling off period and the freedom riders Freedom Writers Community Project: Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights 2 responded "We have been cooling off for three hundred and fifty years. If we cooled off any longer we would be in a deep freeze." That was a mistake because they all got sent to the jail after being met by a mob at the bus terminal. They received a sentence of sixty days in the state penitentiary. A lot of the freedom riders who continued to move southward got arrested and toward the end, over three‐hundred had gotten arrested.  The freedom riders never made it to New Orleans. A lot of people were scared for the rest of their lives from the noxious beatings they received. They did not do these things in vain; they received recognition by Kennedy by taking their position under consideration and making a law stating that the segregation of public transport was to be outlawed.

So I have given you the facts, and here is my opinion. I believe that these people have more stature than many of us can even hope coming close to. They were treated as though they were non‐existent. In my opinion, there was nothing counterfeit about their character, because they fought for what they believed in. The strength was prudent within their hearts and nothing they did was in vain. Every action that they took was crucial to the civil rights that were being pushed upon the constitution. They helped shape our country as it is today.

I don't understand why people hate because of color and skin. All there is to learn about a person is how they act, not their skin color. My dad told me what his dad told him: stay focused, and you'll become a man.  My name is Sunday, and I want to become the man that my dad never had the chance to be.

I was born to Richard and Barbara Averill on Jan 12, 1971. I am the youngest out of three girls. It seems that I always got picked on a lot. This one time I got spanked for something I didn’t do. My older sister killed my other sister’s rabbit. I got blamed for it. I am glad I got taken away from my mom when I was 8 years old and put into foster care for 10 ½ years. She shouldn’t have been a mother. Mom always told me that she wished I never had been born. I felt that she never wanted me. I felt that she only wanted my sister Kellie. She could have tried to get all of us back but she didn’t. Growing up I always thought she didn’t love me. I wished that my mom had given me up for adoption. When I was 4 years old, my mom tried to kill me by smothering me with a pillow. That was the first time I was with social services. She was supposed to protect me but she didn’t. I blame my mom for my learning disability; we moved around a lot because of my step‐father. He didn’t want his secret out that he molested us.

I grew up and became a mother of a beautiful little girl; I named her Rebecca Rose. She was born on July 12, 1998. She weighed 6 pounds and 11oz and was 19 inches long. She was the cutest baby. The day she was born the doctor laid her on my tummy. I touched her arm said, “Hi Rebecca.” and she looked up at me.

I had trouble keeping my house clean. I had a mice problem. When I used my oven it smelled like mice. The social worker opened my oven door and there was a dead mouse in there. That is why never used my oven. In court, the social worker and attorney went on and on about a baked mouse. Then I told the judge that didn’t use my oven. The first time Rebecca was taken from me when she 4 years old, just like when I was taken from my mom. I went into a deep depression. I did everything CPS wanted and got her back. They gave me the support I needed to learn better parenting skills.

My little girl was taken from me when she was 7 years old. She was staying with some friends because I was in jail for theft by check. I felt like someone had reached in chest and ripped out my heart .I felt that I was forced to sign my rights way and that my disability had something do with not getting her back. This time, the social worker said I couldn’t raise her financially and CPS didn’t give me any support.

Rebecca was put up for adoption. She just turned 13 years old. The hardest thing about losing a child is her birthday, mother’s day and Christmas. I am counting the days I can get to see my baby girl again. In five years I hope that Rebecca will want to see me. I will explain to her that I had no choice. I will tell her I love her and always will and there is not a day that goes by without think about her or talking about her. Today I fight depression. Freedom Writers Community Project: Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights 2 Heather Vance is 40 years old. She has learning disabilities and a piece of her spine is missing.

What happened? Oh, okay. I walked into school and I set down my backpack and my binder in my class that I'm going to. And I sit down at my desk, and I'm just doodling away. And on the inside of my binder I have a Human Rights Campaign sticker. And some kid that I don't really know comes and sits down next to me and he's like, hey, what's that sticker? And I was just like, oh, well, it's a Human Rights Campaign sticker. And I proceeded to explain to him that the Human Rights Campaign is all about equality for the LGBT community in our society. And then finally he was like, are you a lesbian? And I was like, no, I'm not a lesbian. He was like, then why do you care?

When asked why do I care, the answer doesn't come simply. I couldn't tell him in two words why it matters or how I came to understand why caring is important. And so I took time to sit back and to think. There isn't a time in my life when I remember waking up and being forced to hide myself. I've always had the right to be open about who I am. That freedom has become so common to me, and yet daily people are denied the ability to be comfortable in their own skin. Daily, people wake up and are criticized, alienated, and silenced. All the while, I go through my life, taught to be forgetful of the past, blind to the present, and indifferent to the future. I rarely feel challenged beyond high test scores and popularity contests. Instead I feel like the world around me wants me to be apathetic. To do nothing. Consumption fulfills my need for instant gratification, and Facebook provides me with the space to self‐promote. I'm told that my emotions are juvenile and that I should grow up. But how can I get away from the constant text messages and Jersey Shore sound bites? I can't help but feel like growing up involves more connection with reality than reality television provides. Reality is so much harder than what many of us live in. In this reality, freedom is sold to us in commercials and magazine layouts. In this reality, we aren't told about the struggles of the Malcolm X's and the Harvey Milks. In this reality, we demand freedom of speech, but don't have the words to speak up for ourselves. We don't know it really feels to be free, because freedom doesn't mean anything more to us than our freedom to carry guns or sip our lattes. To me, freedom is being aware of what is around me and what I can do to change it. I realize that we deserve things that we are not all born with, and that I've been given what countless people like me never had. I realize my privilege. And I realize that I've been taught to ignore what should mean the most to me. My rights only exist because someone else made the choice to fight for them.

And now I have a choice. I can decide to be silent, live my life privately, and die knowing that I achieved my own goals, personally fulfilled and comfortable. But I want my life to amount to more than credit card debt Freedom Writers Community Project: Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights 2 and white noise. My choice is to step outside of the box I have been placed in. Remaining ignorant to the realities of this world is anything but life in motion. And being unconcerned is a misuse of the voice I was given. My responsibility is not only to me, but to those around me who are drowned out because of my indifference. My choice is to be a leader in healing the wounds left open by prejudice towards the unfamiliar. I choose to challenge the status quo so that everyone is granted an even hand. This is not just about gay and lesbian rights. This is not just about rights based on sex, ability, faith, race, age, gender, appearance, or class. I guess my answer to this question is that I care because this is about my rights, and my ability to choose for myself. My freedom depends on the freedom of others. And it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to solidify and claim that freedom. Condensed and simply put, in the words of Nelson Mandela, to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

Since my early 20's I have been losing my hearing a little at a time.  During stressful times in life, my hearing took big drops.  Hearing aids help but they aren't called hearing miracles for a reason.  As of right now, I have about 35% of my hearing left.    I don't hear when people knock at the door.  The only time I hear my phone is when it's under my nose.  I go for hikes and people come up behind me, often scaring me half to death because I didn't hear them coming.  Also out of my hearing range are timers and most house fire alarms.

I wanted help with all the above which is exactly what hearing dogs do.  I applied to an organization and was approved to receive one.  I was thrilled with the idea of having a hearing helper I could lavish love on.   No more missed visits from friends who dropped by.  I would be alerted to text messages and know when fire alarms went off.  Having a dog would give me a more normal life.

Hearing dogs are covered under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) as service dogs.  Service dogs are well known and accepted in society.  I thought doors would be open for me, instead they seemed to shut.   “What do you need a hearing dog for,” I heard too often.

Benji, the hearing dog, was a sweetheart.  He was a well behaved Poodle/ShihTzu mix.  The organization trained him to touch me with his paw and lead me to the door or my phone.  If the house fire alarm went off, he would find me, lay across me and nudge me with his nose and paws until I understood.   When we went walking, I watched him for clues to find out which direction noises came from and if someone was behind me.   

My hearing dog became sick within a few days after getting him which cut short training between me, the dog and the organization.  The organization wasn't able to go to the assisted living home where I worked as a hairdresser to introduce the dog.  My boss and I did not think it would be a big deal because dogs came and went with family members as they visited their loved ones in the building, plus I only worked two days a week.   However, my boss didn't think to inform the building administrator about my dog.  It became a total breakdown of communication.

When Benji healed, I took him to work with me as the hearing dog organization suggested.  I met the administrator with a well behaved dog sitting at my feet and laminated cards specifying Benji as a service dog along with ADA cards for both federal and state laws regarding service dogs.  She took one look at the dog and said, “No.”  I tried handing her the ADA cards and she refused to look at them.  Even with the state and federal laws behind me, I was totally disregarded.  Benji could not come to work with me. Her reason; there was one client in the building who was afraid of dogs.

Under the hearing dog organization's rules, I could not be apart from the dog for more than four hours at a time.  That meant my two days at work were cut from eight down to four hours a day.  My income took a hit.  I filed a complaint with the assisted living's headquarters.  Days went by and no word.  I worked twice a week cramming as much work as I could into four hours which put pressure on both me and my co‐worker. Days went by and there was no resolution for getting the dog to work with me.

In the mean time, I encountered negativity from friends and neighbors.  As per the rules, Benji could not be around other dogs. He might pick up bad habits after extensive training and he might get hurt or sick.   Freedom Writers Community Project: Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights 2 When friends came by with their dogs, I would scoop Benji up.  Repeatedly, they asked if he was ever allowed to be 'just' a dog.  Yes he could.  At home Benji chased a ball and toys. We played tag and he had attention whenever he wanted it.  Duty required me, however, to keep him safe and well behaved.

Another thing I received flack on was maintaining a short leash and keeping him by my side at all times.   Keeping him close to me created bonding.  We needed to become a working unit.  Another reason being, I could watch and learn his signals and yet again, to keep him well behaved and trained.   Benji existed in the public eye and no one wants to see a 'service' dog run wild in grocery stores. I felt like I had to be on the defensive all the time.   

After four weeks of waiting, the word came down from work.  I could bring Benji as long as he stayed in a crate the whole time.  That's no life for a hearing dog.  During those four weeks, my hearing took another drop due to all the tension.  I finally decided enough and gave Benji back to the organization he came from.  I didn't want to chance losing my hearing all together with the added stress of a legal battle.  In that short amount of time he was in my life, Benji became family.  Giving him back broke my heart.

Hearing dogs are misunderstood.  Over a year later, I still think of Benji and feel guilty for not fighting it to the end.  It was a chance to help others understand what hearing dogs were about but I never imagined forcing that understanding on to others.  Someday I will try again now that I know what to expect but I will wait until my heart has fully healed from this experience.

I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes lately.

I’ve been thinking about how heroes are brave in the face of adversity. How heroes make us feel safe. How heroes inspire us to think, act and see differently. How heroes make us want to be better people. But heroes are complex, flawed people, just like the rest of us. I would argue that the best superheroes are the ones with the most complicated histories. And the heroes we love the most are the ones we see ourselves reflected in. So why is it—for all the change we fight for, dream of, want to see in the future—that we work so hard to keep the ideas of our heroes static, unchanging, frozen in time?

On this trip, I witnessed a hero show their humanity by sharing a controversial but honest opinion about immigration in the U.S. As I talked to my fellow riders in hopes of processing, I heard many different responses, ranging from disappointment and frustration to apathy and excuses. I kept hearing that it was the age of the person that formed their opinion, as if age and ideology are mutually exclusive. This is a dangerous excuse because it assumes that ideas and opinions can be controlled and that we can control how we’re affected by them. In fact, ideas do the exact opposite – they’re able to seep into our minds and are impossible to remove.

It’s a mixture of things that keep us from seeing our heroes as everyday people working in collectives to make change. Living in a world that can sometimes seem so ugly and hopeless and the ease with which violence, hatred and fear are used to oppress and maintain power is hard. The romanticized image of a hero helps us deal with the hard parts. But it also takes away that person’s ability to be flawed and our ability to separate the great work accomplished from the troubling beliefs that we need to be critical of.

Just because you admire someone doesn’t mean you must accept everything they say as truth. We as activists need to know the history of the Freedom Rides because the unheard alternative narratives empower us. But we also need to seek out and understand the experiences of other minoritized communities and movements. The world we live in isn’t just about us as people in the United States but as global citizens with a responsibility to see that our struggles aren’t our own, but all of ours.

New York voted.
New York voted and I, I celebrated.
Sharing photos  
Of the Stonewall and the rainbow colored Empire State Building.
We celebrated
Like dogs lapping up treats for good behavior.
New York voted and we thanked the benevolent gods granting rights that  
Should already be mine.

13 years ago, I marched up Congress Avenue in Austin
19 years old, angry that the State of Texas wanted to keep me from adopting children I did not then want. I marched with swingers and straights and drag queens. Transfolk and gays and lesbians and fellow bisexuals with their dogs and their children and I thought then of my mother who was willing to be arrested as she fought for her right to enter a building the same way as any able bodied person.  
I thought of my mother who feared the state of New York taking away the child of a single woman with a disability.  

New York voted.
I cheered on twitter and I liked post after post on facebook.
I paused NCIS to share the news with my mother.  

Leaping for treats.
Begging for a handout.
But New York voted!
Because equal rights are not spelled out in plain enough language in the Declaration of Independence
And the 1st and
14th amendments.  

New York voted.
And we celebrated.
With parties at the Stonewall
And a rainbow empire state building.  
And turned our sights to California and other states that matter.
Where else?
Where else can we beg for rights
That should already be ours?

There is a terrible specter haunting the world. It is the ghost of inequality. There was a time when we lived in hunter‐gatherer societies, and in those days, hierarchy was virtually non‐existent and the average workweek was seventeen hours. Then along came agriculture, and along with it came inequality. All the sudden there were big shots who were more interested in accumulating wealth than in helping their fellow man. These men fenced off large portions of land and called themselves kings. Then when these palace born nobles got married, they expected the rest of us to gravel at their royal weddings.  

Inequality also led to the mistreatment of women. As patriarchy developed, women lost more of their rights. In some Asian countries, women’s feet were bound so they were unable to walk and forced to be sex slaves. In supposedly civilized countries, women were considered too feeble minded to vote in elections or to manage their own money.  

Then along came a fellow named Columbus‐‐ he was greatly admired in European circles for his ability to enslave people in the Caribbean. However, Columbus and his successors were so cruel to the American Indian that soon the indigenous population began to die off. So the European exploiters solved this problem by enslaving Africans and shipping these new slaves over to America. Talk about inequality—this new form of slavery was worse than Roman slavery; at least slaves in roman times had the chance of winning their freedom.  

In America, slavery was absolute and inescapable. Nowadays, we think that slavery has been abolished, but we are mistaken. Instead, slavery has been globalized. When the Iron Curtain fell, sex slavery and prostitution increased. Today a slave is more cheaply valued than a Roman slave was. A woman in a Nike factory in Thailand would have to work for 50,000 years in order to earn what the CEO does in a single year.  

Over in Africa, the Congo has won the sorry distinction of being the worse country in the world for women. Three million women in the Congo have already been raped, and seven million people have been killed. Western nations really don’t care about the brutality in the Congo; so long as the Congo keeps providing many of the minerals for electronic devices, western nations will ignore what’s happening in that part of the world.  

Inequality isn’t just something that happens over there—there’s plenty of inequality right here in America. In America corporations are people—how stupid is that? Now with the Citizens United court decision, corporations are allowed to spend unlimited money in order to influence elections. Corporations are like vampires, they are immortal and nearly impossible to kill. But unlike people, corporations are not required to take responsibility for their own actions. If the banks issue too many derivates, they government will bail them out. After all, what’s the point of being a banker if you can’t grant yourself millions of dollars in bonuses while at the same time socializing your risk?

Sometimes, one feels like escaping from all the injustice, but how can you when all the land is already owned? You can’t even go to the national park without paying money to visit land you already theoretically own. There’s one group called the Rainbow Family that’s consistently harassed by the government merely because they insist on spending several days each year communing with nature. However, if you lead an industry that is hell‐bent of destroying the environment, our government officials will literally snort cocaine and have sex with you.  

In the long run, poisoning the Earth affects all of us. However, in the short‐term, the poor are the ones that pay the heaviest price. Chemical factories pollute poor countries and poor neighborhoods in America. Plastic from America is sent to China in order to be recycled. When plastics are recycled they exposed Chinese workers to toxic chemicals. Inequality is not only destroying our society, it is destroying the planet. Our world is at a tipping point. Many of the factors that have led to the globalization of inequality are vanishing. Peak oil, peak water, and global warming are three important trends that will lead to a de‐industrialized and localized world. This is the ideal moment to return equality to humanity.

I don’t like the nursing home

They won’t let me go.

I don’t like the smell

It makes me sick.

There are four of us in one room

My roommates are loud. Smelly. Messy.

The food is just “ick”  

And doesn’t taste like anything.

I hope I get out of there before I’m sixty.  

Before I went in the nursing home

I had my own apartment.

I had a live in aide.

I went where I wanted.

I ate what I wanted.

I was happy.

If I get my own apartment I won’t mess up again.

No one has ever been mean to me because of my disability. 
In school, reading and writing were my favorite things. 
I still read books but I don’t write very well. 
Sometimes, I get out a math book and do problems.

I started at the Independent Living Center when I moved to Utah.
At first I didn’t know it was there but
I learned to sing and to act and  
Had fun doing aerobics.  
But the best part was going camping.  
I help them set up tents and carry stuff to the picnic tables.
They say I am a good helper.

Now I work for Kroger in Texas.  
Bagging and cleaning and getting carts and
 I help people out to their cars with their groceries and firewood.  
My boss loves my work
He knows I do a good job.  
Everyone is always really nice.  

Kenneth Whitledge is 47 years old and has a learning disability. He participated with the Utah Independent Living Center programs for a number of years before moving to Lewisville, Texas with family and returns every year for the annual campout.

The chains of society 
quell all variety 
why let the man 
have the power to ban 
we have much religion
while people’s hate is the main provision
they make us a slave
to the money we crave
for bits of paper
don’t make us safer
we call our state democracy
I only see conspiracy
conspiracy of rage and hate
what a sorry state
it may be too late
to quell this hate
we all might just dissipate

She had received the ten commandments of the non‐violent movement.    She made the pledge.

  1. MEDITATE daily on the teaching and the life of Christ.
    It was May of 1961 and the Freedom Riders had arrived in Birmingham.  Her father had said she could not board the bus. At sixteen she was much too young and had little experience with the notion of rage.  Her father said, “Do something less dangerous, go to Kress with Pastor Davidson and do a simple sit in.”   As her father put it, “Christ wouldn’t want us losing all are young.  Those buses are being blown up and people are being beaten, it’s bad enough to go to Kress and have them call you a Nigger over a soda fountain drink.
  2. REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
    Pastor Davidson wanted to see the Freedom Riders off by marching from the church to Kress on the corner of Lexington for a sit in at the lunch counter.  “Has everyone signed their Ten Commandments?” Pastor shouted. “Yes!”   She held her pledge sheet as she began to march ‐ knees shaking, one foot in front of the other, breathe shallow.  She had seen pictures of marchers walking tall and proud, side by side.  She had seen people like Papa and Pastor talk about justice and how the idea of it swells up inside of you until you can’t take it anymore.  In that moment, just the thought of walking into Kress and asking for a soda made her proud to be a Negro.
  3. WALK AND TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.  
    With every step she said the words, “Lord, make me strong so I can do your work with love.”  She held these words as her mission cry for when she forgot them a slice of rage would slip in.  The sort of rage that bumps up against her father’s insistence that you can do and be whoever you want.  This rage was created by forbidden bathrooms, restaurants, drinking fountains and swimming pools.   Freedom Writers Community Project: Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights 2
  4. PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
    She could see the lunch counters empty in anticipation.  She wanted to think about strawberry milkshakes, french fries, and holding a shiny slick menu.  But all she could think of were the angry white men and women waiting – just waiting.  The idea of running anywhere to escape the moment was quieted by Pastor sliding his hand into hers, “Are you ready?”  “Yes, I’m ready.”
  5. SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
    They walked into Kress with peace in their hearts, living their mission with every step.  Pastor had talked about sacrifice.  All she knew is that one spring morning in May had been sacrificed; it all came down to this.
  6. OBSERVE with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy
    The vinyl seats were slick and smooth as she slid onto the counter seat.  She pulled the edges of her skirt down below her knees as if a bit of gingham could protect her from the splintered souls surrounding her at the counter.  Pastor held a menu in his hand and passed it down so each person could look at the choices.  Each person slowly turned the corner of the menu and passed it on as if the menu itself would jump out and attack.   She remembered her father’s words, “Always say yes ma’am and thank you when you orderin’ from White people, they thinks that’s important.  Show your manners.” She thought about the politeness of ordering a milkshake when the wetness struck her cheek, as the spit from the word “Nigger” flew out of an old white man’s mouth.
  7. SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.
    Her eyes reached upward towards Pastor for guidance.  He hadn’t noticed what happened to her for he was praying and calming an angry young White man holding a clean white bat and yelling his one‐word taunt.  The bat hit hard against the counter, shattering the metal siding.
  8. REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue or heart.
    She jumped up holding her skirt tight between her fists.  Prayer jumped into her heart as she begged for the hatred to slow down, just slow down.  The bat struck down again, Pastor was the one who led us here.  He calms our souls so we can do Christ’s work on behalf of Negroes everywhere.  If the holy man could do nothing to slow the rage than surely one sixteen year old girl child could not.
  9. STRIVE to be in good spirit and bodily health
    The bat came down a third time with unison taunting, “Nigger, Nigger, Nigger,” sprayed out by angry white men, women, and teenagers.  This time the bat broke away at a piece of the counter and the owner got really mad.  “Stop breakin my counter, just strike that bat at the damned pastor’s head.”
  10. FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
    The bat bounced off of the side of Pastor’s head, white wood and the darkness of blood formed a bond between the two.  The Pastor slid off the chair, twirling to the right as he landed on the floor.  She jumped backwards off the chair onto the cold wet linoleum as she grabbed Pastor’s head and placed it on her lap.  The owner shouted again, “Damn girl, you better be ready to clean that mess up.”

Items in bold are from the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Pledge signed by volunteers for sit‐ in demonstrations to protest segregated eating facilities in Birmingham, Alabama.

I’ve always remembered a story told by my aunt about a time in her life when my uncle’s military career took them to Biloxi, Mississippi during the early 1950s. Her Yankee background had not prepared her for what she observed as avoidance, “Black folk would walk on the opposite side of the street and immediately to the back of buses.” She explained. “Once I stood to allow an elderly black woman a seat.” Her good manners would have prompted this action regardless of the individual’s creed or color. However, in this way my aunt broke the confines of her cultural environment simply because she didn’t know any better.

I reflect on my upbringing with pride but also realize a need for change in future generations. As a member of the omni‐sexual collective consciousness I too find myself maneuvering to the back of the bus simply by being invisible. If we don’t see people of the same gender sharing affection in public openly and honestly, their intimacy becomes taboo and typified to orgies/polyamory; while those practices exist, they are not indicative of all omnisexuals. We too are everywhere, in schools, churches, workplaces and yes even on public transit.

Rather than limiting self‐expression with signs that read NO PDAs (Public Displays of Affection) and black & white attitudes that devalue belief systems outside our own, we should be thankful for the privilege to differ from one another and find value in our humanness.  

What a wonderful world it would be if none of us knew any better than to treat everyone with the same kindness and respect we all deserve.