Friday, July 11

Continuing Education - Essential for Southerners

TGIF y' Kathy. We've been in writer's group nearly as long as I've been in Tennessee. Her writing and life are filled with humor, honesty and endless curiosity, all inspiring to me. A few fun facts about Kathy...she has an outstanding collection of bumper stickers on her car that leaves no doubt where she stands on social issues and she introduced me to Gospel Drag.

Hi—I’m proud to be a guest blogger on Laura’s site!

I had a similar experience to Cathy’s having grown up in Guntersville, Alabama, during the Civil Rights movement. I watched the awful things going on further south on my family’s black and white (apropos) TV and might as well have been in another country. Only when I went back to college at age 35, twenty years ago, did I start to learn some of “the rest of the story.”

I remember sitting in a history class (my teacher was an African-American female) and learning the story of Emmett Till ( and crying. I had never heard of him.

Growing up where I did definitely had an influence on my ignorance. We were fairly poor, and while it’s terrible to think of the way African-Americans were treated—my small town had the separate movie areas, the separate waiting rooms, and the separate windows at the local Dairy Dip—the physical accommodations for us were not much different. I was not mature enough to realize the emotional ramifications. I remember Southern writer Rick Bragg, also from Alabama, saying the local black people were the only ones around poorer than his family, and that was pretty much all he thought for a long time regarding racial issues. My family was not as poor as his, but we were not well off, and we were isolated. My relatives had the idea of separate but equal and supported it with the fact that species of birds did not mix together.

One day with innocent simplicity, coming from a conventionally religious home, I decided that God would not segregate heaven, and that was that. But still it was only a couple of years ago in graduate school that I learned what an important part Nashville played in the Civil Rights movement. Read David Halberstam’s The Children. Visit the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library where part of it is a replica of the lunchroom counters that were boycotted here. Watch the amazing documentaries they have. And read Toni Morrison’s Beloved. So many things I didn’t know until I was in my fifties but that I’m so glad I finally stumbled across in this journey called life because in print or in person, the ordinary heroes are amazing.

water the plants he’d cry
on his way out the door
to god knows where on one of his trips
i’d write notes to myself
set glasses out on the counter
as a psychological ploy to remember
but i’d lose the notes
and make tea in the glasses
so when he came home
the plants were brown and dry

one day i ran off with a black man
to a cabin in north carolina
he plays drums
i bake bread
and the flowers that grow in the garden
are watered by the rain


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